TikTok has made a public show of supporting and celebrating Black creators over the years. But now a couple of employees say that message doesn’t carry over to the workplace. Here’s what’s happening.
Black Content Creators
In the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020, TikTok publicly pledged their support for Black creators and for the broader Black community.
And it’s no secret that Black creators are some of the most respected and results-producing contributors to the online video platform.
In fact, TikTok has said as much on multiple occasions. In January of 2023, for example, the company released a statement that read, in part, “Black creators inspire mainstream culture and continue to define what’s next…they have always been at the forefront of innovation.”
But despite that public display of support, the work environment may not be quite so nurturing for Black employees. In fact, according to two recently-fired Black employees, the TikTok workplace is downright hostile.
According to Joël Carter, who worked for TikTok in Austin, Texas, his experience with the company was anything but uplifting.
“Dehumanizing” and “Demoralizing”
Starting with an interview process that he described as “dehumanizing” and “demoralizing,” Carter said he faced roadblocks and hostility all through his two-plus years working at TikTok.
After a transfer to a new department a few months after he started, Carter found out he was making a lot less money than his colleagues.
And then his manager started to gaslight him, excluding him from important meetings so he also missed out on vital information. That manager also took credit for Carter’s work and ideas.
It all culminated in an effort to make him look like an “angry Black man” in the eyes of the company, Carter says. There were even allegations that Carter slammed doors at the office, which he says is untrue.
In the meantime, one of the big reasons Nnete Matima wanted to join TikTok in the first place was precisely because of that supportive image they cultivated in the mainstream media.
Toxic and Racist
But it didn’t take long for Matima to realize that everything was definitely not roses once she started working for ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company.
Matima says that her workplace in New York City was toxic and riddled with racism.
The most obvious examples were perpetrated by Matima’s own boss, who called her a “black snake” to other employees. That same boss also set work expectations for her that were much heftier than those her colleagues had to meet.
Matima went to HR, but she says the mistreatment and racist attitudes only got worse in the aftermath.
Both Carter and Matima were let go from their positions in August even though in Carter’s case, at least, he consistently scored high on employee reviews.
In response to the shoddy treatment they received working at TikTok and unable to gain any traction with their complaints, Carter and Matima decided to work together.
In mid-September, the two former employees filed a formal complaint against TikTok with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
According to the class-action complaint, the duo wants the “EEOC to investigate TikTok’s pattern or practice of retaliation against workers who complain about discrimination.”
TikTok issued its own statement in response, saying they take employee relations and complaints very seriously. They also reinforced their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
But the legal wrangling may just be getting started. Part of Matima’s goal, she said, is to help other TikTok employees feel like they have the power to speak out against discrimination, too.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / gonzagon