Gregory Anderson, a former Yahoo employee who worked as an editorial director for the company for four years until he was fired in November of 2014, filed a lawsuit February 1st in which Yahoo is accused of “actual and intentional gender-based discrimination” against men.
Although in 2014 77% of leadership roles at the company were held by men (that number has since decreased somewhat; by July of 2015, a mere 76% of leadership roles were filled by guys, and Yahoo’s workforce was only 62% male), Anderson’s lawsuit alleges that the company “intentionally hired and promoted women because of their gender, while terminating, demoting or laying off male employees because of their gender.”
The complaint specifically addresses Yahoo’s controversial “quarterly performance review” (QPR) program, and alleges that CEO Marissa Meyer “encouraged and fostered the use of the QPR Program to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees.” The New York Times writes that, before Anderson was fired, “he had complained to management about the impact of the Q.P.R. process on the people he supervised and had reported an attempted bribe by one employee who wanted him to reduce another employee’s rating.”
The complaint also alleges that women in leadership roles in the company’s media division–where Anderson worked–favored female over male staffers with similar employee scores, and that subsequently the number of leadership roles held by women in that department rose from 20% to 80% during Anderson’s time with the company. The lawsuit cites Kathy Savitt, Yahoo’s chief marketing office during Anderson’s tenure:
Savitt has publicly expressed support for increasing the number of women in media and has intentionally hired and promoted women because of their gender, while terminating, demoting or laying off male employees because of their gender.
Therese Lawless, the attorney who represented Ellen Pao during her gender discrimination lawsuit last year, told The Guardian that companies are within their rights to intentionally diversify their workforce:
It is not illegal for an employer to have goals, such as we would like to have 50% women in leadership, as long as they’re not making individual employment decisions based on protected class. If someone says, ‘Well we need a woman,’ then you might have a problem.
Women’s rights employment lawyer Joelle Emerson agrees that there’s nothing inherently illegal about corporate diversity programs, telling The Guardian:
Not only are they within what’s legal, but they’re advisable to avoid discriminating against more vulnerable groups […] If being explicit about diversity being a priority leads someone to file a ‘reverse discrimination suit’, that may mean you’re doing something right.
As the gender gap continues to close in traditionally male-dominated fields, Emerson says similar complaints may become routine: “I really hope this isn’t some kind of ridiculous trend.”
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