In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a female former sales executive accused Spotify of systemic gender discrimination, defamation, equal pay violation, and of firing her to cover up ethical lapses by her superior.
In the suit filed in New York Supreme Court, Hong Perez accused several male executives of sexist and unprofessional behavior. Among the accusations, she said Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy once said “he does not care about diversity at the company,” and that an unnamed HR executive once bragged that his favorite profanity is the word “c–.”
Perez, who joined the company in 2015 but was fired last May, also said that another unnamed Spotify executive took employees to an Atlantic City strip club, and was later promoted, despite having received warnings for sexual harassment. Perez also accused Spotify’s head of global sales of giving male hires greater compensation and equity, and of going easy on a male executive who was accused of sexual harassment.
But much of her lawsuit involves the company’s head of U.S. sales, Brian Berner. Perez said Berner selected all-male groups for the company’s presence at the 2016 and 2017 Sundance Film Festivals, excluding women she says were more qualified. Perez says in her suit that Spotify employees openly discussed drug use as well as “a physical altercation” after one such trip, and that Berner was aware of both but took no action to investigate.
Most notably, Perez says that Berner and other company executives made her a “scapegoat” in order to protect Berner. According to her account, Berner accepted gifts and gave discounts to reach deals with buyers, and in early 2018 he ended up “in hot water” with his boss, as well as with McCarthy. However, in April, Perez said Berner asked her to draw up summaries of the deals, which she says he later used to shift blame for his actions to her. She was ultimately fired, she says, “ostensibly for violating the Code of Conduct.”
“At Spotify, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at any level. While we cannot comment on the specific details of pending litigation, these claims are without merit,” A Spotify representative said in a statement to TheWrap.
Perez says in the suit that she later learned Berner arranged the deals with the approval of both Spotify’s in-house legal counsel and executive for investor relations and financial planning, though neither were investigated or punished.
Spotify and Berner are both named as defendants in the lawsuit. Perez is seeking unspecified damages for lost wages and back pay, benefits, and equity, as well as for punitive and compensatory damages and legal costs.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.