WeWork, the real estate company already making headlines for cofounder and former CEO Adam Neumann’s numerous conflicts of interest, is getting negative attention again, this time over an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. Former WeWork chief of staff Medina Bardhi, a mom of two in New York City, filed because she was demoted after each of her two pregnancies. Once, she was replaced by a man who was paid over double her salary. But that’s not the only awful thing that she alleged happened during her nearly six years at the embattled company.
According to a complaint filed Thursday, Oct. 31, Adam had asked Medina in a 2013 interview before hiring her if she was planning on marrying or becoming pregnant anytime soon. Though the complaint makes it unclear what her response to the question was, she was “stunned and uncomfortable”—but accepted the position when it was offered to her.
Medina was hesitant to tell Adam about her first pregnancy in 2016, but felt she had no choice because she could no longer travel with him “due to his penchant for bringing marijuana on chartered flights and smoking it throughout the flight while in an enclosed cabin,” according to the complaint.
After disclosing she was expecting, Medina said what followed was a pattern of discrimination from Adam and other WeWork officials, including referring to her maternity leave as a “vacation” or a “retirement.”
When she returned, in addition to a higher paid man being in her chief of staff position, she was given very little direction as to what her role would be. Though she eventually got her role back, the exact pattern repeated itself during her second pregnancy.
WeWork has vowed to fight for women in the workplace and has maintained that they don’t stand for discrimination of any kind. Shortly after Adam left the company in September—with $185 million to be a consultant for the company for the next four years—Medina was fired, being told “there was no longer a role for her after Mr. Neumann’s departure,” despite her having already been pushed off of his team.
This isn’t the first time even this year employees—including a senior executive—have filed complaints against the company for gender discrimination. It has been said that Adam had lived lavishly, given outsize power to family members including his wife and promoted a work culture of excessive drinking where complaints of sexism and harassment were disregarded.
After the company failed to launch publicly in September, it was announced it would be taken over by SoftBank, one of its largest investors, in a multi-million dollar deal. Though Adam pledged that the start-up would be an inviting place for women from the get-go, allegations tell a different story.