A former Reddit employee alleges in a lawsuit filed in San Francisco that she was unfairly terminated due to supposed poor performance after taking three months of sick leave to address her anxiety issues. The lawsuit, filed on Monday, revolves around Jamie Lee, who held positions at Reddit as a senior accountant and corporate accounting manager for a span of four years. The legal complaint highlights that she had worked under five different supervisors during her tenure, all of whom had consistently provided positive performance evaluations.
Throughout her time at Reddit, Lee not only received several promotions and pay raises but also garnered awards and even a bonus, according to the lawsuit. Court documents further reveal that she had a medical background of generalized anxiety, which worsened in July 2022, leading to various symptoms, including panic attacks, breathing difficulties, concentration problems, and sleep disturbances. Her condition had progressed, so medical professionals classified it as a disability.
The situation took a significant turn when Lee reportedly fainted at her workplace on August 12, 2022. In response, her healthcare provider recommended medical leave for her. However, upon informing her supervisor, Sung Hwang, Lee claims that Hwang expressed concerns about her absence affecting a work meeting in Los Angeles and critical decisions the company needed to make during that time.
Alleged Pattern of Discriminatory Termination and Cultural Shift
The lawsuit aims to shed light on the circumstances surrounding Jamie Lee’s termination, suggesting that her case is not one of poor performance as stated by the company but rather a result of her medical condition and the subsequent leave she had to take.
Lee initiated her medical absence on August 15, 2022, and received approval to resume work on November 18. However, according to the complaint, Lee’s employment was terminated by Hwang upon her return, citing “unsatisfactory performance.”
When Lee inquired about specific instances of her alleged poor performance, Hwang did not furnish any examples, as stated in the lawsuit. Interestingly, the complaint notes that Hwang had previously given Lee exceptional performance appraisals and granted her the highest salary increase just a month before her three-month medical leave.
According to the official filing, two additional senior accountants also left their positions after returning from medical and paternal leave due to what they described as a negative shift in the company’s culture.
Reddit Faces Legal Action Amidst Work Environment Shift and Valuation Setback
Navruz Avloni, the lawyer representing Lee, stated that Reddit’s work environment underwent a significant change after co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the board in 2020, which was accompanied by various leadership alterations within the social media company. Before Ohanian’s departure, the company had strongly emphasised the well-being of its employees, Avloni added.
In June, Fidelity, the leading investor in Reddit’s most recent funding round in 2021, substantially lowered the estimated valuation of the popular social media platform by 41%.
“Based on our observations of what has transpired with our client’s experience, there has absolutely been a shift,” Avloni conveyed to Standard. “Here we have an employee who clearly needed leave because of her disability—and then she gets terminated—which is not very in sync with the type of image that Reddit has built over the years about caring about employees’ well-being.”
The legal action follows a period of turmoil for Reddit, triggered by the company’s decision in April to implement a fee for utilizing its API, which stands for Application Programming Interface. This change departed from the past seven years, during which the API was available at no cost, enabling developers to access Reddit’s openly accessible information.
As of the time of publication, Reddit has not provided any responses to inquiries seeking comments on the matter.