A former marketing executive for TikTok is alleging that she was fired because she failed to demonstrate “the docility and meekness specifically required of female employees.”
Katie Riccio Puris, who was let go last year from her role as TikTok’s head of global brand and creative, filed a discrimination suit against the ByteDance-owned social media platform in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Puris, a Long Island resident, alleged that the company subjected her to criticism that her male colleagues were spared from and that it failed to properly address a sexual harassment allegation.
“At every step, Ms. Puris reported the discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment she faced — to her managers, Human Resources and Employee Relations — and the Company, taking its directives from the office in China, failed to take any corrective action,” it was alleged in the complaint.
Puris, whose resume includes stints as a marketing executive at Google and Meta-owned Facebook, was hired by TikTok in 2019 to head its North American business marketing division.
Despite receiving glowing performance reviews from her superiors after joining TikTok, things began to change after Lidong Zhang, the chairman of Chinese-based parent company ByteDance, began to assert more control over the social media platform’s day-to-day operations, the lawsuit alleged.
Puris alleged in the lawsuit that Zhang was “displeased with the way” she “led her presentations” because “she celebrated her team’s successes and achievements, which he felt was inappropriate because he believes that women should always remain humble and express modesty.”
“Essentially, Lidong Zhang believes women should be quiet,” it was alleged in the lawsuit.
Puris alleged in the lawsuit that Zhang declined to criticize male leaders “for not being humble enough.” She claimed that she was “never permitted to present or speak in” bi-monthly meetings which are intended to map out the company’s strategies and note achievements.
The lawsuit also alleged that ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming expressed a preference for hiring younger employees even if they were less experienced.
Puris alleged in the lawsuit that the company’s “996” culture which required workers to be in the office between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. six days a week discriminated against older employees since their younger counterparts “were less likely to have childcare and other family obligations outside of work.”
The pressure to prove herself to ByteDance management eventually led to a deterioration in Puris’ health as she started to suffer from ulcers, migraines and irritable bowel syndrome, it was alleged in the lawsuit.
In June 2022, Puris alleged that Christian Lee, an executive for the advertising agency Zenith, “became increasingly intoxicated” at a dinner at the Cannes Lions in France.
Lee “moved to sit next to Puris in such a way that he blocked her from moving away from him,” it was alleged in the lawsuit.
He then was “slurring his speech” and “spilled an entire glass of wine on Ms. Puris’ plate” before he started “repeatedly touching” her arm and asking her “where to party after dinner and where they could go dancing,” the lawsuit alleged.
Eventually, another TikTok employee joined the dinner and led Puris outside to get her away from Lee.
When Puris brought up the incident to her superiors, she was “disappointed” that “the ethics team has not taken my concerns seriously.”
Puris alleged in the lawsuit that after she complained about the company’s inaction, she was fired.
The Post has sought comment from TikTok and Zenith.