For the most part, the sexual harassment controversies rocking the tech industry this year have followed a familiar pattern: a woman comes forward to accuse a male employee, a male boss, or male colleague (like her VC).
But a lawsuit filed on Friday against hot fintech startup Social Finance, better known as SoFi, is strikingly different.
This suit has been filed by a male employee who claims that he saw sexual harassment of his female coworkers and was fired after he reported it, according to a report by The New York Times’ Nathaniel Popper.
The employee who is suing, Brandon Charles, only worked for SoFi for a few months. In the suit Charles alleges that he witnessed his manager using language full of “explicit sexual innuendo” and that the manager used “lewd, sexualized gestures” when referring to one female employee, the NYT reported.
SoFi helps customers refinance student loans. The startup has been a venture funding darling, raising nearly $1.9 billion and valued at nearly $4 billion.
Charles also alleged that SoFi managers were recording loans in ways designed to boost their pay, and that they would cancel loan applications rather than report situations that hurt their performance metrics, the NYT reported.
The company is strongly denying all of the allegations, telling Business Insider the former employee’s complaints were investigated and “found to have no merit.”
It’s way too early to judge whether or not the case has any merit. But the case does raise a few interesting, and timely, issues. Woman in tech have been calling on the men to help them speak out against such wrongdoing when they see it.
The logic is, that if both women and men come forward when they witness sexual harassment, then HR and top executives will be forced to take such accusations more seriously. Plus, if men call out bad, potentially illegal behavior, that’s a better way to stop it than pretending it isn’t there, or, worse, bowing to peer pressure and joining in.
But how much at risk are men for speaking out? To answer that, we’ll probably have to wait and see if more lawsuits like this one are filed.
Here’s SoFi’s full statement to Business Insider:
While we have not received a copy of the complaint, we’re familiar with Mr. Charles’ allegations. They were investigated in depth by the company and found to have no merit. We will vigorously defend ourselves against any claims otherwise. Managers can’t un-assign loan applications once assigned to a reviewer, and loan applications can’t be cancelled except by the applicant themselves or by time expiration.
If you are a male employee who has witnessed your female coworkers being sexually harassed, we’d like to hear from you! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org via email or Confide, or DM on Twitter @Julie188.