Former Employee Sues Yahoo, Claims Gender Discrimination Against Men

Published: February 5, 2016 9:20 PM /


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Gregory Anderson has filed suit against his former employer Yahoo, over what he claims to be an unjust termination. Under California law, employers are required to give 60 day notice if they fire more than 50 employees at a single location in a 30 day period. The complaint alleges that Yahoo gave no such notice when it laid off over a thousand employees in late 2014 and early 2015. Beyond the fact that employees were fired without sufficient notification, the complaint also alleges that men were unfairly targeted for termination.

Anderson describes at length the numerical employee evaluation system, known internally as QPR, which separates employees into groups based on their performance. While the initial scores were given by an employee's immediate superior, there was a second stage known as calibration. In this stage, members of upper management, who had no real actual contact with the employees being ranked, could modify their score. They were not required to give any explanation as to why they were modifying the ranking, and the complaint alleges that this system, "permitted and encouraged discrimination based on gender and any other personal bias held by management."

Depending on the QPR rank, employees could face immediate termination, although exactly what rank was needed to be terminated changed over time, eventually averaging rankings from multiple quarterly reviews to determine if an employee should be fired or not. It is alleged that managers were instructed to put an increasingly large number of employees in the lowest rank in order to justify the mass terminations Yahoo had planned, while placing the blame on an employees own performance rather than Yahoo's financial situation.

To bolster the case that their was systemic gender discrimination against men, the complaint mentions an incident where Yahoo was allegedly looking to fill the position of Editor in Chief of the Autos magazine with a woman, and passed over qualified men in the 8 month period it took to find a woman for the job. The complaint also claims that Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt almost exclusively hired women to management positions in Yahoo's media division. The complaint reads, "When Savitt began at Yahoo the top managers reporting to her in the Media Org, including the chief editors of the 12 magazines (many of which were formerly called "verticals"), were less than 20% female. Three years later those top managers were more than 80% female." It is also alleged that men were terminated for a particular QPR rank, while women were allowed to retain their jobs at the same rank.

This case is reminiscent of many gender discrimination cases brought forth by women, in that a huge chunk of the argument is based on alleged bias in the subjective employee evaluations by management. The lawsuit brought against Microsoft last year complains about a similar numerical ranking system to evaluate employees, and Anderson even draws a comparison between Microsoft's and Yahoo's evaluation systems.

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I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.