A former sales executive at Spotify has filed a lawsuit against the music streaming service, alleging gender discrimination, equal pay violation and defamation. In documents filed in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday, Hong Perez accuses her former employer of tolerating bias against women in the workplace, and that she was fired after being scapegoated by her then-boss, head of sales Brian Berner.
In the filing, Perez claims that Berner was reprimanded earlier this year for accepting concert tickets at Madison Square Garden from a prospective partner, as well as other technical issues related to a discounting deal, but that he diverted the blame to her instead. According to Hong, Berner then recommended her to be terminated “for his mistakes” and that a subsequent meeting with the director of internal controls became contentious. Hong was fired two days after the meeting for violating Spotify’s code of conduct.
The complaint alleges that other senior male executives had approved Berner’s concert tickets and other elements of the deal, but that “they were not investigated and not fired. Only Plaintiff — a woman — was selected as the executive at fault for Berner’s mess.” Perez says Berner then defamed her by sending an email to “virtually everyone on the sales team,” including hundreds of employees and execs, alleging that her firing was because she “acted in ways that are against our code of conduct and guidelines for internal compliance.”
Much of Perez’s lawsuit seeks to paint Berner as having bias against women in general. She says that he brought only male employees to networking events at the Sundance Film Festival in both 2016 and 2017, referring to them as “boys’ trips.” During these jaunts, Perez says employees spoke of drug use and of there being at least one physical altercation involving the “boys” — but that Berner never sought to enforce the same code of conduct that got her fired.
According to Perez, Berner gave a male counterpart in sales a higher salary increase and larger equity award than her, despite the man having “performance issues in his region.”
The complaint also cites men-only trips to Atlantic City strip clubs and alleges that the company’s chief financial officer once told a large audience of employees that he “does not care about diversity at the company.”
“At Spotify, we do not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind at any level,” a company spokesperson said when reached. “We do not comment on specific details of pending litigation.” In comments to Variety, the company added that Perez’s claims are “without merit.”
The lawsuit arrives two months after an internal diversity report stated that over 38 percent of Spotify employees identified as women, with the number of female board members, senior execs and other leaders at around 30 percent.
Perez is seeking damages for lost wages and benefits, along with punitive damages.