The National Labor Relations Board has filed a formal complaint against WeWork, a New York-based startup already popular in SF that rents out shared office space to individuals and small startups, after a former employee brought a lawsuit against the company. The Business Times covered that lawsuit in June: Tara Zoumer, a community manager at WeWork's Berkeley office in 2015, says her managers told her to drop complaints including issues with wages and working conditions or else leave her job.
WeWork has raised $780 million and is valued at $16 billion according to Business Insider. Yet Zoumer alleges that the company was in violation of California's labor code, lacking meal breaks and overtime. And WeWork's policy is such that employees must seek legal recourse through arbitration rather than in court, a trend for companies the New York Times addressed last year, with sources calling the policy a "get out of jail free" card for corporations, limiting, for example, the potential for class action lawsuits.
"Speaking up was going to get me fired any time I asked too many questions," Zoumer told the Business Times, "So, I went the lawsuit route hoping we would have a collective chance to be paid back for the extra hours we had already provided the company — 60, 70-plus hours a week." Zoumer was fired when she wouldn't sign an "unlawful mandatory arbitration agreement." Her lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, is now being arbitrated in New York. A hearing for the NLRB complaint will take place in September in Oakland, and WeWork has 10 days to file a response to the complaint.
News of the NLRB filing comes days after another incident that might suggest WeWork's character: Reuters had the story of a startup co-founder working from a rented Manhattan WeWork office mocked the company's business difficulties in a Medium post. WeWork ordered the post taken down, alleging the co-founder had stolen information from WeWork's network.