Yahoo! CEO Accused of Gender Discrimination

Shelby Krzastek

Women currently hold only 4.4% of Fortune 500 CEO roles; Yahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer is one of them. In October, Scott Ard, Yahoo’s former editorial director, filed a lawsuit against Mayer in federal court in San Jose, California, alleging that Mayer and other female Yahoo executives—including Kathy Savitt, Yahoo’s former chief marketing officer, and Megan Liberman, Yahoo News’ current editor-in-chief—had discriminated against male Yahoo employees because of their gender.

When Mayer began at Yahoo, only 20% of top managers and chief editors were female. Within a year and a half of Mayer’s assuming leadership of Yahoo, however, top managers were more than 80% female. Similarly, of the approximately 16 senior-level editorial employees hired or promoted by Savitt over an 18-month period, 14 were women. Ard claims that female Yahoo executives intentionally hired and promoted women and terminated or demoted male employees solely on the basis of their genders.

When Ard was fired from Yahoo in 2015, he was told that he was being terminated due to unsatisfactory performance. However, all of Ard’s performance reviews prior to reporting to Liberman had been highly positive; until Savitt and Liberman took over management of Yahoo’s media section in 2014, Ard’s performance had not been criticized. Liberman then told Ard that he had been terminated because she had not received a breakdown of his job duties, which she had requested from him—yet Ard claims that he had, in fact, provided the requested document. And after Ard was terminated, he learned that Liberman had replaced him with a female employee.

Ard’s suit attacks Yahoo’s performance review process, which, Ard alleges, does not provide sufficient checks on reviewers, thereby potentially facilitating discrimination based on gender or any other personal prejudice. Ard claims that the design of Yahoo’s performance rating system enabled management to easily act on discriminatory biases when conducting performance reviews, to the disadvantage of Yahoo’s male employees, because it allows high-level executives like Mayer to independently change the performance scores of employees at their discretion—even employees whom they did not supervise and with whom they did not have direct contact. Ard states that, for instance, he witnessed Liberman lower the performance ratings of three male employees whose performances Ard had evaluated himself, while maintaining the scores of two female employees. Gregory Anderson, another former editor at Yahoo, also filed suit against Yahoo last February, making similar accusations and criticizing the same performance rating system; after his termination, Anderson asked to see documentation of the performance review metrics on which his termination had been based, which Yahoo refused to provide.

Though women are discriminated against because of their gender more often than men, it should not be overlooked that men can, and do, experience gender discrimination in the workplace. If your employer has discriminated against you because of your gender, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.