Former WeWork VP sues the company alleging age discrimination

In a lawsuit filed this week in San Francisco Superior Court, Richard Markel, 62, claimed that not long after he was brought in, WeWork hired a man 20 years younger than he with the same job title as him, and that he was given no explanation for the hire. Markel had been hired as the company’s vice president of construction for the West Coast in April 2018, after WeWork acquired the firm he worked for, UA Builders Group.

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Several months after the new hire began, Markel says in the suit, he discovered through an internal system that he was reporting to the new hire. He was soon thereafter stripped of all of his responsibilities, he alleges. According to the suit, Markel requested a meeting with human resources to discuss the possible age discrimination, but that request was ignored. When he was fired, the suit says, he was told that his role was being eliminated. He was terminated in April 2019, just weeks before he would have started to receive some of his stock options, according to the filing.

Markel claims the company promised his position would be long-term, which the suit says was one of the factors in his decision to move from New York City to San Francisco to take the job. WeWork declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

The We Company, parent company to WeWork, is valued at $47 billion. It filed confidential paperwork in May indicating its intent to go public. Through its various ventures, The We Company is aiming to sell “community” through its growing network of coworking spaces, coliving buildings, and a school. It also has a fitness studio, Rise by We, and a new hybrid retail/cafe/coworking location in New York City.
WeWork isn't just selling desk space. It's selling a new way of life
The company has 10,000 employees around the world and has taken a new-age approach to creating its own internal culture. For example, up until this year, it required staffers to fly out to its annual “Summer Camp” in an effort to bond.

It’s not the first time, however, that an employee has claimed they were fired in an act of retaliation for reporting grievances to human resources.

One former employee claimed she was sexually assaulted at two company events and ultimately fired in retaliation for reporting the incidents, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court in October. WeWork disputed this, saying she was fired for performance reasons.

A New York State Supreme Court justice sided with WeWork on dismissing some of her claims last month but did not dismiss her main sexual harassment and retaliation claims. The case is ongoing.