Black ex-employees file civil rights complaint against TikTok

The EEOC complaint comes as ByteDance, the China-based company that owns TikTok, comes under increased scrutiny amid worries it may enable Beijing to gather info on Americans. 

Two former Black TikTok employees have lodged a civil rights complaint against ByteDance, alleging the parent company fired them after they raised concerns about racial discrimination.

According to USA Today, Nnete Matima and Joël Carter claim to have been the only Black workers in their positions for most of their employment at TikTok. Matima, a former sales representative, said her boss called her a “Black snake” and that she was required to complete a larger sales outreach quota than her white co-workers. 

TikTok racial discrimination
The TikTok logo is shown on a cell phone. Two ex-TikTok employees have lodged an EEOC complaint against China-based ByteDance, alleging the parent company fired them because they complained about racial discrimination. (Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP, File)

Carter, a TikTok ad policy team manager, said he received a lower level and salary despite having the same degree and experience as his non-Black counterparts. 

In a complaint submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Thursday, the pair alleged they faced retaliation for addressing discriminatory treatment “emblematic of a systemic problem in Silicon Valley and more generally in large American companies,” it stated.

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

“This case demonstrates the dilemma that way too many workers of color face today: they can ignore discrimination and let biased supervisors sabotage their careers, or they can report that discrimination and suffer retaliation that often leads to being terminated,” the pair wrote in their EEOC complaint. “No worker should have to choose from such dehumanizing alternatives.”

The filing comes as ByteDance, the China-based company that owns TikTok, comes under increasing scrutiny amid worries that it may enable Beijing to gather information on Americans. 

Despite their efforts over the past decade, the technology sector has yet to make much headway in increasing the presence of women and people of color among its workers and leaders. TikTok, like other businesses, pledged to increase diversity in hiring and workplace inclusion following the 2020 police killing of George Floyd.

The company promised to work daily “to create a supportive environment for the Black community and everyone across the world” after Black content creators voiced concerns about being mistreated on the video-sharing platform.

However, Matima and Carter claimed in their EEOC complaint that they had instead experienced a “pattern or practice of retaliation against workers who complain about discrimination.”

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