Former employees accuse TikTok of racial discrimination, bias, retaliation

21 September 2023

(The Hill) — Two Black former workers of video-sharing platform TikTok have filed a federal class action complaint alleging they faced racial discrimination and ultimately were fired from the company when they took the matter to human resources.

Nnete Matima and Joël Carter claim in their Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that they were treated worse than their white peers while at TikTok, which has more than 150 million users in the United States and is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech company.

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“When I told TikTok that my managers were discriminating against me, I was retaliated against in so many ways, my managers called me a ‘Black Snake,’ and TikTok terminated me. It was an absolute nightmare,” said Matima, who was a business development representative, in a statement shared with The Hill by their attorney, Peter Romer-Friedman.

Carter, who worked as a policy manager, shared a similar story.

“TikTok says that its ‘mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.’ But TikTok fosters fear and silence among its own workers. And TikTok’s leadership pursues growth at all costs, even if it means discriminating and retaliating against Black professionals like me,” he said in a statement via Romer-Friedman.

Romer-Friedman, a principal and founder of Peter Romer-Friedman Law PLLC, said in the complaint that the duo initially went to TikTok’s human resources department and management through internal complaints before filing the federal claim.

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“Most employers tell their workers to report discrimination. But when workers find the courage to file an internal discrimination complaint they often suffer blatant retaliation and lose their jobs,” he said in a statement. “Every time an employer terminates a worker for filing a discrimination complaint, it sends a clear message to all workers at that company that there will be dire consequences if they stand up for their civil rights.”

A spokesperson for TikTok told The Hill in a statement that the company values diversity.

“We take employee concerns very seriously, and have strong policies in place that prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace,” the spokesperson said. “As an organization, we have a strong record of championing diversity and inclusion.”

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