Facebook facing litany of gender, racial complaints

Ex-employee sues over a wide range of alleged bad behavior, including sex harassment and race discrimination in the workplace.

Facebook is disputing claims of sex harassment and race discrimination, saying there are "substantive disagreements on the facts." Getty Images

Facebook is under fire from a former employee who claims the social network's work environment was a hotbed of harassment and discrimination.

Chia Hong, who worked at Facebook from June 2010 to October 2013, alleges she was subjected to unfair treatment based on her race and gender. Hong filed 11 claims, including sex harassment and national origin discrimination, on Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Hong is suing for lost compensation, including wages and benefits; monetary damage related to "mental pain and anguish and emotional distress;" plus additional punitive damages and attorney fees, the suit states.

Facebook is the latest tech company facing accusations that are seen largely as the by-product of an industrywide lack of diversity. Tech companies are on average 70 percent male and white, according to self-reported statistics from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other companies. Their stats, along with a pervasive male-dominated culture, have created heated discussions and, now, lawsuits in Silicon Valley.

Hong's suit names Facebook, as well as employee Anil Wilson and 50 unnamed other employees. She claims her opinions were routinely ignored, that Hong and coworkers even asked her "why she did not just stay home and take care of her children" and that she was asked to serve male employees drinks at a company event. Hong also alleges Facebook management punished her after she took time off to volunteer at her children's school and after she complained about the workplace environment. Ultimately, she was replaced by a "less qualified, less experienced Indian male" and eventually fired.

"We work extremely hard on issues related to diversity, gender and equality, and we believe we've made progress," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement given to CNET. "In this case we have substantive disagreements on the facts, and we believe the record shows the employee was treated fairly."

Hong's suit surfaces as storied venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is in court over gender discrimination charges filed by former employee Ellen Pao. Pao said she hopes her suit will inspire other women to come forward.

Hong is represented by Lawless and Lawless, one of the firms representing Pao in her gender discrimination suit currently on trial in San Francisco Superior Court.

Correction, May 6 at 10:24 a.m. PT: This story incorrectly described a claim Chia Hong filed against Facebook. Her lawsuit accuses the social network of sex harassment.

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