Last night, a friend of mine on Twitter passed along an interesting story to me. Mashable is reporting that Twitter is getting sued for sex discrimination by one of its longest tenured female employees. The merits of the lawsuit itself aren’t as important to me as the lawsuit simply existing. Twitter had to know was coming down the pike and that negative press would surely follow. Does that explain their recent alliances with atrocious harassers like Big Randi Harper, and the recent more aggressive moves against causes like GamerGate? It seems to me that it very well might. 

First, let’s get to the details, from the Mashable article:


A software engineer suing Twitter for sex discrimination says the company’s mysterious promotions policy denies equal job opportunities for qualified women, according to court papers obtained Friday by Mashable — a document that handily lists 10 of the company’s personnel problems and five ways to fix them.

The action comes via Tina Huang, who started in 2009, worked in varying software engineering roles at San Francisco headquarters and left the company last June. Filed Thursday in California Superior Court, the suit contains sweeping allegations about the company’s internal culture, alleging that a so-called “technical ladder” and opaque promotion system — wherein secret management committees make promotion decisions without job postings or reviews — has led to an overwhelming gender imbalance in Twitter’s technical workforce.

She goes on to allege that promotions work in some admittedly strange ways there at Twitter. But keep in mind, while these strategies may be unorthodox and byzantine, that doesn’t make them discriminatory:

Twitter’s “engineering family” has eight distinct job titles — what’s called “the ladder” — according to Huang’s lawsuit. But there is no published promotion criteria or application process; the titles are essentially granted by a tap on the shoulder, Huang alleges.

Promotion into Twitter’s senior technical positions is based on subjective judgments, by committees that are comprised of and dependent on upper management at Twitter, and predominantly male. These judgments are tainted with conscious or unconscious prejudices and gender-based stereotypes, which explains why so few women employees at Twitter advance to senior and leadership positions.

She says the policy — or really, lack of one — is why Twitter lags behind competitors in women at senior level, leadership, and management positions. She’s seeking class-action status, inviting “all current and former female employees of Twitter denied promotions in the three years prior to the filing of this complaint” to join her.

As you can see, Ms. Huang is trying to make off with some major bank. But what are the core problems she has with the promotions process? Here’s a selection directly from the lawsuit, and Mashable’s report:

Twitter’s policies and practices have thus had the effect of denying equal job opportunities to qualified women. Such policies and practices include, without limitation:

a. Reliance upon subjective, gender-based and/or arbitrary criteria utilized by a nearly all male managerial workforce in making promotion decisions;
b. Failure to follow a uniform job posting procedure to guarantee that all employees have notice of openings;
c. Effectively discouraging women from seeking or applying for senior level and leadership positions;
d. Failing and refusing to consider women for promotion on the same basis as men are considered;
e. Failing and refusing to promote women on the same basis as men are promoted and compensated;
f. Failing to provide women with accurate and timely notice of promotional opportunities;
g. Providing women employees interested in promotion shifting, inconsistent and inaccurate statements about the requirements and qualifications necessary for promotion;
h. Establishing and maintaining arbitrary and subjective requirements for promotions which have the effect of excluding qualified women and which have not been shown to have any significant relationship to job performance or to be necessary to the safe and efficient conduct of Twitter’s business;
i. Failing and refusing to take adequate steps to eliminate the effects of its past discriminatory practices; and,
j. Retaliating against women employees who complain of unequal treatment.

Twitter claims that they tried to keep her on board, and that they never even fired her. In fact, she did leave of her own volition, but she claims that was after the response to her internal complaint to CEO Dick Costolo nuked her future career prospects at the San Francisco-based social media goliath. If you’ll recall, it was Costolo himself who recently came out in the press (via “leaks”) with claims that Twitter was going to get tough on supposed Internet harassers:

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.

I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.

We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.

Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.

In another message, he wrote:

Let me be very very clear about my response here. I take PERSONAL responsibility for our failure to deal with this as a company. I thought I did that in my note, so let me reiterate what I said, which is that I take personal responsibility for this. I specifically said “It’s nobody’s fault but mine”

We HAVE to be able to tell each other the truth, and the truth that everybody in the world knows is that we have not effectively dealt with this problem even remotely to the degree we should have by now, and that’s on me and nobody else. So now we’re going to fix it, and I’m going to take full responsibility for making sure that the people working night and day on this have the resources they need to address the issue, that there are clear lines of responsibility and accountability, and that we don’t equivocate in our decisions and choices.

We’ve also reported here about how Randi Harper, the notorious radical feminist (although she likely does it for cash, since she rejected feminism not long ago) has bragged about her connections to high-level leadership at Twitter. Is all this a way for CEO Costolo to smokescreen his own personal involvement in this sexual discrimination suit? Look at personal motivations, and you will often find the truth of certain business moves.This recent Twitter crackdown may have nothing to do with harassment at all, and everything to do with covering the leader of the company’s ass when this lawsuit picked up steam in the press. Time will tell, as more facts come out about the lawsuit, and we can see just how fairly or unfairly these new policies are implemented. Will free speech be a casualty of the new “stop harassment” regime?