TikTok is one of the most successful, fastest-growing social media platforms in the world. The video-sharing app has become the favorite of younger users. But despite the company’s association with youth, it has been accused of perpetuating discriminatory actions that echo earlier, less enlightened times. Two former employees, who are Black, have filed an EEOC complaint alleging that they faced racial discrimination at TikTok, and were retaliated against after they filed complaints.

The two former TikTok employees, 42-year-old Nnete Matima, and 27-year-old Joël Carter filed a complaint alleging that their direct managers had regularly sabotaged their work, disparaged them with racial comments and negative stereotypes, and then retaliated against them when they complained to the company’s Human Resources department. The case, which they hope will be granted class-action status, was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against TikTok’s owner, ByteDance.

Ms. Matima is a former attorney who accepted a job with ByteDance selling its business collaboration tool, while Mr. Carter began working for the company as a risk analyst and then transferred to the ad policy team. Each began experiencing problems soon after they began working. Ms. Matima says that she was treated differently from white colleagues from the time she began training: She was required to cut her training time short and begin selling and training others immediately. She was also assigned 75% of her four-person team’s sales goals less than two weeks after she began working.

Two months later she submitted a written complaint to the company’s Human Resources department alleging that she was being treated differently from her colleagues, but her supervisor was cleared of wrongdoing and later promoted. She also reported being assigned as the sole sales representative at a diversity-focused conference while being told she was not permitted to sell anything to any of the prospects that she met there. Later, the leads she had generated there were redistributed to other representatives. She also learned that her direct supervisor referred to her as a “black snake.” After she filed another complaint, both she and her supervisor were fired, with the company indicating that her performance had been poor.

As for Mr. Carter, he was the only Black employee on the 80-person ad policy team. He began noting disparate treatment just one month after having been given a “glowing” performance evaluation. After his supervisor blocked him from attending meetings and took credit for his ideas, Mr. Carter was removed from projects and reassigned to work as an assistant to a white policy manager with the same title as his. When he requested a transfer to another manager, his request was denied. Later he filed a complaint about racial discrimination by his manager to TikTok’s Human Resources Department, but his complaint was resolved with the company indicating that no wrongdoing had occurred and that the problem was Carter’s anger. He claims that his manager later retaliated against him with a negative performance evaluation.

Both former employees recall their excitement at working for such a quickly rising company, and the strain that the unexpected discrimination placed on their mental health. Ms. Matima says that she gained twenty pounds in a matter of weeks due to stress, while Mr. Carter is now being medicated for anxiety.

Discrimination and retaliation are against both federal and New Jersey state laws. If you have been the victim of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation based on your membership in any protected category of people, our experienced, compassionate attorneys can help. Contact us today to set up a time for us to meet and discuss your experience.