- A former Spotify sales leader filed suit in the New York Supreme Court against the company and one of its sales executives earlier this week accusing the executive "aiding and abetting gender discrimination," according to the court filing.
- The plaintiff, Hong Perez, an Asian-American woman and former sales leader at Spotify, alleged in the suit that Brian Berner, a man and the company's leader of U.S. sales, "engineered the termination of plaintiff's employment on baseless grounds" in addition to a series of discriminatory measures. Perez also alleged Berner sponsored a male-only group's attendance at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and 2017 for client networking purposes despite the fact that the department had "senior women in equally (if not more) senior sales positions; Perez said such trips were referred to internally as "'boys' trips.'"
- Perez alleged Berner also gave her male counterpart a higher salary increase and larger equity award than Perez and another female counterpart, despite Perez's being as experienced as her male co-worker and despite the male co-worker's "performance issues." Perez alleged similar pay discrepancies had been orchestrated by Spotify's global head of sales and alleged its chief financial officer told an audience of Spotify employees "he does not care about diversity at the company." Perez complained to an HR executive at the company but said her complaint "fell on deaf ears." The plaintiff then said she was scapegoated by Berner and accused of violating Spotify's code of conduct over a deal involving tickets to concerts at Madison Square Garden, leading to Perez's firing. Perez alleged this amounted to an adverse employment action against a member of a protected class with gender as a motivating factor. In a statement to NBC News, Spotify said it did not tolerate discrimination "at any level" and said the claims "are without merit."
The allegations against Berner and Spotify are preliminary and no judgment has yet been rendered by the court, but the contents of the court filing — particularly the alleged "boys' trips" — compare similarly to recent charges brought against other companies. Women at Nike accused the company of having a "boys club" culture at the executive level in which HR professionals rebuffed their attempts to report harassment and inappropriate behavior. And female employees at Microsoft filed 238 internal complaints between 2010 and 2016 that said women at the company had been denied pay raises and advancement opportunities.
The threat of being held to account for cultures of harassment, discrimination and general inequality in the post-#MeToo era has spurred organizations of all stripes to look inward, even if few have specifically bothered to change their harassment reporting procedures. Spotify released self-reporting on its diversity and inclusion metrics in July, admitting that it had room to improve while making clear it wanted "to get real about our current status." Included in that report is a key statistic: women make up 31.9% of Spotify's leadership team in 2018, down 1.6% from a year ago. Workforce experts have been adamant about the role that women in leadership play in preventing and addressing cultural issues.
HR, with the support of executive leadership, can reassess reporting procedures and other protocols that encourage employees to come forward and speak up about code of conduct violations before they create larger problems. Internal investigations should be good-faith reviews that speak to all key witnesses and include thorough documentation of each step. Leadership might also ensure that rules are applied evenly, without being subject to the biases of those in charge.