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WeWork former chief of staff accuses CEO of ‘offensive sexual conduct’

By Charlotte Ricca

WeWork CEO Adam Neumann faces charges over pregnancy discrimination

WeWork former chief of staff accuses CEO of alleged offensive sexual conduct

It’s another bad day at the office for WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann as a former chief of staff has filed a lawsuit for “offensive sexual conduct”.

Medina Bardhi, who joined WeWork in 2014, filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stating the company created a “sexually aggressive” work environment.

Bardhi, who worked for the company for five years, said she first suffered discrimination after telling Neumann she was pregnant with her first child in 2016. She claims she was forced to announce her pregnancy earlier than she wanted, because she could no longer go on business trips on his private plane.

The complaint states Neumann smoked marijuana on his plane and explained that “Bardhi obviously could not expose her unborn child to marijuana smoke, much less in such an enclosed space for hours at a time”.

Bardhi said she was repeatedly discriminated against during and after her two pregnancies, and that Neumann referred to her maternity leave as “retirement” and “vacation”.

During her first pregnancy Bardhi stated she was replaced by a male employee, who received more than double her salary.

She was fired on October 2, "just weeks" after raising discrimination concerns in connection with her maternity leave. Bardhi claims she was then replaced by an “under-qualified” male employee.

In the complaint Bardhi said other female workers had also suffered from discrimination.

"For years, they have been subjected to a work environment in which female employees are demeaned for taking maternity leave,” she said. “Excessive alcohol consumption fuels offensive sexual conduct towards women and where it is common for women to be paid less than their male colleagues.”

WeWork released a statement “vigorously” defending itself, saying: “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.”

The suit comes less than two weeks after Neumann left WeWork with a $1.7bn exit package. There are also plans to cut up to 4,000 jobs as part of a turnaround plan by SoftBank, who took control of the co-working business at the end of October.

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