‘WeWorking while Black’: Ex-employees allege racial discrimination

Former staffers, including head of diversity, accuse company of equal pay violation

Two ex-WeWork employees have sued the company over allegations of race and gender discrimination (Getty)
Two ex-WeWork employees have sued the company over allegations of race and gender discrimination (Getty)

WeWork’s former head of diversity and inclusion has accused the co-working company of underpaying minority employees and keeping them out of leadership roles.

In a lawsuit filed this week, Christopher Clermont, who is Black, said his image was regularly used in the company’s promotional materials, but in reality he was given “little in the way of responsibility,” and relegated to menial tasks such as moving furniture. He accused the company of retaliating against him after he complained about a white manager, leading to his eventual dismissal.

The suit is one of two discrimination actions filed this week by former WeWork employees, and comes at a time when a growing number of people are speaking out about diversity and discrimination issues in the real estate industry. The WeWork lawsuits were first reported by Crain’s.

The second claim was filed by WeWork’s former stock plan administrator, Diane Allen, who is also Black. She accuses the company of sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination, equal pay violations and retaliation.

According to court records, Allen was hired by WeWork in 2017, and in the first six months of her job she alleged she was “repeatedly sexually harassed by a male co-worker” at a WeWork conference.

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Allen said in the suit that she reported the incident to management but no action was taken.

She also claimed that after she reported concerns about the company’s practices regarding its stock options, she was excluded from meetings and denied salary increases, while “other similarly situated male or non-Black employees received several.”

Allen, who has 20 years of experience and an MBA, alleged that the company hired a white man for the same role as her and paid him 12 percent more. The man was then promoted above her, despite having less experience, the lawsuit said. When Allen complained about pay inequity, her manager allegedly responded in anger, telling her he was “not a racist.” Allen later quit.

Clermont, who is represented by the same lawyer, alleged that pay inequity and discrimination was so rampant at the company that Black employees and members had come up with the expression, “WeWorking while Black.”

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for WeWork said the company had investigated the complaints and “found them to be wholly without merit.”

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at so@therealdeal.com

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