The Real Deal National

“Men take risks and women don’t”: WeWork’s former head of compensation accuses company of gender pay discrimination

Former senior vice president Lisa Bridges also claimed the company lied about the value of its common stock
By David Jeans | June 20, 2019 05:30PM

Former WeWork SVP Lisa Bridges claims the company's co-president, Jennifer Berrent, told her “men take risks and women don’t"

Former WeWork SVP Lisa Bridges claims the company’s co-president, Jennifer Berrent, told her “men take risks and women don’t”

A former WeWork executive who oversaw compensation and benefits claims she faced retaliation after raising evidence of gender pay discrimination at the co-working company.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, Lisa Bridges accused company executives of ignoring “glaring” evidence of pay discrimination.

Bridges, WeWork’s former senior vice president of total rewards, claims the firm’s current co-president, Jennifer Berrent, allegedly responded that “men take risks and women don’t.”

“[Bridges] was told that men are paid more than women because, for example, men take risks and women don’t and women are ‘second earners,’” the complaint read.

The lawsuit also alleges the company used inflated share prices to mislead employees on the value of its stock. It claims that in preparation for its initial public offering, WeWork hired investment bankers who were offered equity in the company before they began working, a move that contradicts the company’s own equity policy.

Bridges could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Seth A. Rafkin, did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for WeWork said in a statement that the lawsuit is meritless and that the company intends to fight it.

“[Jennifer] Berrent is of the highest moral and ethical character, and we stand behind her completely,” the statement read. “We will continue to support women leaders.”

The allegations come as WeWork’s parent company, the We Company, powers toward an initial public offering while making efforts to straighten its business practices. The We Company says it is valued at $47 billion. Last week, another lawsuit was filed against the company alleging age discrimination, in which a 62-year-old California-based executive claimed a younger employee was hired to take over his role.

Bridges, who was hired in August 2018, claims in her lawsuit that WeWork “was compensating women significantly less than men, particularly with respect to equity.”

The plaintiff claims she coordinated a study by WeWork’s People Analytics Team in October that found a “glaring” pay disparity between men and women. The findings of the study were allegedly presented to Berrent, who was Bridges’ immediate boss as the company’s head of human resources and chief legal officer.

In one example at WeWork’s UK offices, the company allegedly paid a woman working the same job as a man a salary of $85,000 while paying the man a salary of $123,000, according to the lawsuit. Bridges also claims that two men hired to the human resources department to work alongside her, including one who was more junior, were paid $50,000 more than her.

Berrent, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, allegedly later told employees at a company town hall meeting in December that there was no pay disparity between men and women at the company.

Bridges claims that she met with Berrent again in February to express her concerns after she learned the company allegedly approved equity award grants to many employees. Of approximately 58 awards valued over $1 million, only three were given to women, according to her lawsuit.

Bridges claims Berrent then retaliated against her and shut her out of important HR meetings.

WeWork allegedly told Bridges it would investigate her claims and assigned a third-party investigator. After she provided materials to support her complaint to the investigator, Bridges claims she received a letter from WeWork’s general counsel, Jared DeMatteis, saying she had breached the company’s confidentiality policy.

Shortly after, Bridges alleges she was put on leave.

Before joining WeWork last year, Bridges worked at other corporations, including Dropbox and Dell, overseeing compensation. Following a stint at McDonalds from 2006 to 2007, Bridges sued the fast food giant, alleging she was fired after she raised evidence that showed the company had misrepresented executive compensation. That lawsuit was dismissed following a settlement.