Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer led illegal purge of male employees, lawsuit charges
By ETHAN BARON
PUBLISHED: October 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm | UPDATED: October 7, 2016 at 3:06 pm
A prominent local media executive fired from Yahoo last year has filed a lawsuit accusing CEO Marissa Mayer of leading a campaign to purge male employees.
“Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of (an employee performance-rating system) to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees,” said the suit by Scott Ard filed this week in federal district court in San Jose.
Ard, who worked for Yahoo for 3 ½ years until January 2015, is now editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal. His lawsuit also claims that Yahoo illegally fired large numbers of workers ousted under a performance-rating system imposed by Mayer. That allegation was not tied to gender.
Yahoo’s use of this review system to fire many workers individually in a short time period broke the U.S. and California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) acts, which mandate advance notification of mass layoffs, the suit alleged.
While I do have a friend (not a close one) who was at Yahoo! (Y!) when some of the large-scale firings were happening, I don’t have a horse in this race. The firings were real, and were on a scale that my friend’s work group was left with no chain of supervisors or managers between his group and the COO or even CEO. They didn’t know to whom they reported.
Speaking more generally, when Mayer came in Y! had serious problems. They had been the most successful early search engine, but somehow had gotten out-performed and out-visioned by Google. In the previous 5 or 10 years, Mayer’s predecessors had failed to reverse Y!'s fortunes.
Soon after Mayer came aboard, Y! did something it had never done before. Like many Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) software companies, Y! allowed employees whose jobs could be performed remotely to work at home. Nothing unusual in that, but the “new” thing Y! was to verify whether Y!'s supposed telecommuters actually did any work from home. What they found was that a large number of supposed telecommuters had not even logged onto Y!'s computers on days they claimed they worked at home. I didn’t follow this story to see what Y! manglement in response, but I would expect that many/most of those who defrauded Y! got canned. Because of how their fraud was discovered, the cannings were probably as close to being at the same time as Y!'s HR could process them out.
Like I said, I don’t have a horse in this race (lawsuit). I think it will be interesting to see what facts come out, whether Ard’s claims are proven true. Equally interesting will be how Mayer and Y! defend themselves. Will they present contradicting facts? Will they try to re-spin what they did into acts of “Social Justice”? Will Mayer and Y! try to smear Ard? Will Mayer, et al, play the Gender Card? I think these are all realistic possibilities. IF Ard proves his case, will the federal court actually apply the law to a PC defendant? And, IF Y! loses, in the inevitable appeals will federal appellate courts apply the law to a PC defendant? I think these questions are also reasonable.