In a complaint filed Thursday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Nnete Matima and Joël Carter said they faced retaliation for calling out discrimination that is “emblematic of a systemic problem in Silicon Valley and more generally in large American companies.”
Matima, who worked in sales at TikTok, says she was referred to as a “black snake” by her supervisor and was forced to meet a higher sales outreach quota than her white peers.
Carter, a manager on TikTok’s ad policy team, said he was assigned to a lower level and salary than his peers with the same education and work experience who were not Black.
Both said they faced reprisals when they complained about the disparate treatment.
ByteDance didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The complaint comes as China-based ByteDance faces growing scrutiny over fears that it would allow Beijing to obtain data on Americans.
For nearly a decade, the technology industry has worked to improve the representation of women and people of color among its workers and leaders with little progress.
Like other companies, TikTok made commitments to more diverse hiring and more inclusive workplace practices after the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
After Black TikTok creators raised concerns that they were unequally treated on the social media app, the company pledged “to work each and every day to create a supportive environment for the Black community and everyone across the world.”
In their EEOC complaint, Matima and Carter said that instead, they faced a “pattern or practice of retaliation against workers who complain about discrimination.” Both said they were the only Black employees in their roles for most of their employment.
“This case demonstrates the dilemma that way too many workers of color face today: they can ignore discrimination and let biased supervisors sabotage their careers, or they can report that discrimination and suffer retaliation that often leads to being terminated,” they wrote. “ No worker should have to choose from such dehumanizing alternatives.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TikTok accused by Black workers of race discrimination and retaliation