Former WeWork employee sues for sexual harassment, retaliation

A former employee at WeWork, the coworking community mecca, claims she was sexually assaulted at two company...

Posted: Oct 13, 2018 1:48 PM
Updated: Oct 13, 2018 1:48 PM

A former employee at WeWork, the coworking community mecca, claims she was sexually assaulted at two company events and ultimately fired in retaliation for reporting the incidents, according to a new lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday.

The complaint alleges Ruby Anaya, who worked for the company for nearly four years as product manager and director of culture, first reported the incidents to the company's human resources department.

Companies

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal offenses

Discrimination

Law and legal system

Lawsuits and claims

Sex crimes

Sexual harassment

Sexual misconduct

Societal issues

Society

Trial and procedure

WeWork

"In both cases, the company interviewed no witnesses other than the male employee in question. In both instances, the male employee professed to be too drunk to remember the incident," the complaint reads.

The second incident, the suit alleges, occurred at the company's annual Summit event in January when a male employee grabbed and pulled her into his body and then tried to forcibly kiss her mouth. The situation was allegedly escalated to the company's chief people officer as well as cofounder and chief culture officer Miguel McKelvey, who was her direct boss and is also named in the suit. Still, nothing was done, she alleges, and Anaya was fired in August 2018 in what is described in the complaint as an act of retaliation. Despite never receiving a negative performance review, she said, she was fired for being a "poor performer."

The company disputes the lawsuit's claims that Anaya had a clean performance record.

In a statement, WeWork denied the allegations: "These claims against WeWork are meritless and we will fight this lawsuit. WeWork has always been committed to fostering an inclusive, supportive, and safe workplace. WeWork investigated this employee's complaints, took appropriate action, and this employee was terminated solely because of her poor performance."

The lawsuit is peppered with details about the company's frat-like culture, including an allegation that WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann "plied [Anaya] with tequila shots during her interview with the company."

New York-based WeWork, which operates in more than 20 countries, offers tiered pricing plans for coworking spaces that can run more than $1,000 a month. Its selling point is "community," and the company, which has 6,000 corporate employees, prides itself on helping set the culture for the entrepreneurs and businesses that use its facilities.

The lawsuit also alleges that another employee "surreptitiously photographed [Anaya] having a glass of wine with another co-worker" in a bid to paint her as drinking while on the job. The company, however, has a "free beer on tap all day in all offices policy," the suit adds.

CNN Business obtained an email sent Friday afternoon by McKelvey, Anaya's former boss who is named in the suit, to WeWork staff: "Ruby frequently neglected assignments, skipped meetings and didn't show up for her team or for the company. There may be discussion in the media about what happened, but the truth is that Ruby wasn't fulfilling her role as a WeWork employee. As her manager, I was responsible for listening to feedback and taking action. Any suggestion that her dismissal was anything other than performance based is simply not true."

Seth Rafkin, Anaya's attorney, said in an emailed statement to CNN Business "if our client had been a poor performer for a long time, why didn't WeWork ever give her a warning or a performance plan, something human resources professionals will tell you is typical practice? And why did the decision to fire her come only after she complained again about a sexual assault and the way it was handled?"

"Notably, Mr. McKelvey's email to WeWork's employees wholly ignores the specific allegations concerning the assaults, the fact that our client complained, a surreptitious photo taken of our client, etc," he said.

Anaya is seeking punitive and economic damages including lost compensation due to being fired before some of her stock vested with the company, as well as damages for emotional distress and humiliation.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 68293

Reported Deaths: 1944
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5656118
DeSoto368031
Harrison253036
Madison244368
Rankin229235
Jackson228843
Jones191659
Forrest182056
Washington168942
Lee147941
Lauderdale141192
Neshoba128692
Lamar122614
Oktibbeha112739
Bolivar111834
Warren109533
Lowndes108538
Panola106214
Sunflower105425
Scott100320
Lafayette98317
Copiah95728
Leflore94765
Pike93836
Holmes90049
Grenada84921
Yazoo83312
Lincoln83241
Pontotoc8308
Simpson80330
Monroe80155
Leake79025
Wayne77421
Coahoma77213
Tate73629
Marshall7019
Marion68420
Union64316
Adams62925
Winston62316
Covington62113
George5895
Pearl River55439
Newton54311
Tallahatchie53011
Attala52325
Walthall50120
Chickasaw47019
Noxubee45912
Alcorn4345
Tishomingo4216
Calhoun4209
Prentiss41710
Claiborne40913
Smith40613
Clay39714
Hancock39514
Jasper3889
Itawamba37510
Tippah36713
Tunica3517
Clarke32626
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3228
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29411
Quitman2701
Carroll26111
Greene25512
Perry2437
Amite2356
Webster23512
Kemper23414
Jefferson Davis2336
Wilkinson21113
Stone2055
Sharkey1995
Jefferson1957
Benton1431
Choctaw1354
Franklin1312
Issaquena262
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99926

Reported Deaths: 1781
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13258244
Mobile10517207
Montgomery6835149
Madison544734
Tuscaloosa423076
Baldwin365125
Unassigned363064
Shelby330936
Marshall318937
Lee270047
Morgan241118
Etowah216232
DeKalb183013
Calhoun180717
Elmore173138
Walker153964
Houston141912
Russell13872
St. Clair135418
Limestone134913
Dallas133123
Franklin128820
Cullman122712
Colbert120716
Lauderdale118919
Autauga117421
Escambia108717
Talladega104814
Jackson10144
Tallapoosa86579
Chambers84438
Dale83525
Clarke82610
Blount8124
Chilton8097
Butler76736
Coffee7646
Covington73720
Pike7087
Marion58026
Barbour5765
Lowndes57324
Marengo56515
Hale47826
Bullock46611
Winston45711
Perry4454
Washington44312
Bibb4425
Wilcox43210
Monroe4215
Pickens4049
Randolph40310
Conecuh39310
Sumter36418
Lawrence3512
Macon33914
Crenshaw3265
Choctaw28712
Cherokee2758
Henry2643
Clay2635
Geneva2631
Greene25211
Lamar2292
Fayette2125
Cleburne1271
Coosa1033
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 76°
Columbus
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 75°
Oxford
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather