Adam Neumann is apparently still creating problems for WeWork, even after being ushered out of the CEO role by the company's latest "investors".
Medina Bardhi, described as "chief of staff" to WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, is now suing the ousted CEO for pregnancy discrimination, claiming she was marginalized and derided by Neumann after becoming pregnant, according to the New York Times.
In 2016, Bardhi informed Neumann she was pregnant and told him that she wouldn't be able to accompany him on business trips “due to his penchant for bringing marijuana on chartered flights and smoking it throughout the flight while in an enclosed cabin.”
From there, she is alleging a pattern of discrimination from Neumann, including him calling her maternity leave a "vacation" and "retirement", according to a complaint she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York on Thursday. Bardhi's lawyer said he hoped that the EEOC would file a class action charges against the company.
“Wow, you’re getting big,” another high-level company official, Jennifer Berrent, reportedly said to Bardhi in front of another WeWork executive.
Bardhi was demoted both times she was pregnant while working at the company, the complaint says. She was then fired in early October, shortly after Neumann's departure, when she was told there was "no longer a role" for her.
The complaint says: “This assertion and supposed justification rings hollow, as Ms. Bardhi already had been pushed out of Mr. Neumann’s office. It is clear that Ms. Bardhi’s firing was motivated by the Company’s sustained discriminatory bias and retaliatory animus against her and other female employees who become pregnant, take maternity leave, and/or complain about gender-based discrimination.”
Bardhi also says in the complaint that the discrimination started at a job interview in October 2013, when Neumann “unlawfully and intrusively” asked if she planned to get married or become pregnant. The question left her “stunned and uncomfortable,” she claims.
After she first became pregnant, three years later, she claims Neumann replaced her with a male employee who was paid more than twice as much. After she got the job back, she became pregnant a second time, and another male employee was hired to replace her. She was "sidelined" when she returned back to work.
“She was given no information about what her new role would be,” the complaint said. “This was obvious retaliation for her taking maternity leave and discrimination against a pregnant employee and new mother.”
“I hope you enjoyed your vacation," Neumann allegedly said to her while driving back from a meeting on September 16.
The news flies in the face of promises made by Neumann to champion women at the company. “We like to say that right now we’re bringing in the most talented women in the world at an early stage,” Neumann said in 2017.
And over the last year, other women at WeWork have filed lawsuits accusing the company of gender discrimination. Neumann's leadership has been singled out, as a result, and he has been criticized for maintaining a lavish lifestyle and giving family members, including his wife Rebekah, too much power at the company.
A WeWork spokeswoman said the company “intends to vigorously defend itself against” the complaint.
The statement continued: “We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are committed to moving the company forward and building a company and culture that our employees can be proud of.”
Recall, Neumann stepped down as the company's CEO in September after its IPO imploded on itself like a dying star. Neumann, on the other hand, will make out just fine. After cashing out over $600 million as CEO, he is now set to receive $185 million to work as a consultant to the company for four years.