Adam Neumann does not sound like a good boss. The former CEO of WeWork liked to walk barefoot in the office and would sometimes jump on tables and desks, say the pitiable souls who worked for him. He might, in fact, be a baby. If he visited a WeWork location that lacked his preferred brand of tequila, staff told Business Insider, he would throw a tantrum. “A lot of WeWork feels like a never-ending party. It’s always up or down, and Adam’s screaming both ways, happy or not,” one employee said. How fun for everyone!
Neumann is gone now. His company and the fates of all who work there now rest in SoftBank’s sweaty palms. But the true extent of his abusive workplace behavior is still becoming clear. Neumann may have enjoyed behaving like a baby, but according to one former employer, was less enthusiastic about the people who grow them. On Thursday afternoon, the New York Times reported that his former chief of staff is suing him for pregnancy and gender discrimination. The employee, Medina Bardhi, said that after she told Neumann she was pregnant and could not accompany him on flights where he would smoke marijuana, he marginalized her at work. Neumann demoted her both times she became pregnant, her complaint says, and referred to her maternity leave as her “retirement” or “vacation.” After Neumann left the company earlier this month, Bardhi was fired.
Bardhi is not the first woman to accuse Neumann of fostering a sexist climate at work. In June, two former WeWork executives sued over age and gender discrimination respectively. In a complaint detailed by Fast Company, one executive said that she’d documented a gender pay gap in the office. After she reported it, the company’s co-president, Jennifer Berrent, told her that the gap existed because “men take risks and women don’t.” (Bardhi also says that Berrent commented on the size of her pregnant belly at work.)
Neumann nearly destroyed WeWork. Even now, it may not survive. Though SoftBank acquired the company, which operates co-working spaces and a private school called “WeGrow,” layoffs are probably still imminent. Despite his mismanagement and his mistreatment of his employees, his peers still laud his genius. He is “probably one of the greatest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently told Business Insider. Neumann’s former workers might disagree.