A former executive at TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the popular social media platform, claiming that she was fired due to her lack of "docility and meekness" as required by the company's China-based owners. Katie Puris, who served as the Global Head of Brand & Creative at TikTok, alleges that she was terminated in 2022 after raising internal complaints about gender and age discrimination. Puris asserts that there was a preference among company executives for hiring young individuals.
According to the lawsuit, Puris also reported an incident of sexual harassment at an off-site TikTok event. She claims that the company did not respond appropriately to her complaint, which resulted in her missing a subsequent TikTok event where the alleged harasser was expected to be present. TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, have not yet responded to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit.
Puris's legal team argues that she received positive performance reviews after joining TikTok in late 2019 and was even invited to participate in meetings with ByteDance's chairman the following year. However, the lawsuit alleges that the chairman was displeased with Puris's presentations, believing that she celebrated her team's achievements too openly, which he considered inappropriate. Puris claims that the company began micromanaging her team and recommending the cancellation of their projects as a result.
The complaint further states that during a leadership meeting in 2021, ByteDance's CEO at the time expressed a preference for hiring young, inexperienced individuals, stating that older people are less willing to change, less innovative, and slower. Puris, who was nearing 50 at the time, voiced her concerns to the head of global human resources at TikTok, but the company attributed her firing to "performance reasons."
The allegations made by Puris shed light on potential workplace discrimination and harassment within TikTok. As the lawsuit progresses, it remains to be seen how TikTok and ByteDance will respond to these claims, and what impact this could have on the company's reputation and practices moving forward.