SoFi Employee Says He Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment

  • California suit also claims mishandling of loan applications
  • Silicon Valley is under intense scrutiny of employee treatment

Social Finance Inc., a startup that specializes in refinancing student loans, is being sued by an employee who claims that he was fired for reporting sexual harassment and fraudulent actions by managers.

Brandon Charles, a senior operations manager at the company known as SoFi, said in a lawsuit filed Friday in California that he witnessed his female colleagues being harassed by managers. He also said he saw SoFi managers canceling loans to cover up mistakes and therefore keep their bonuses high.

"Mr. Charles took a stand against inequity and misogyny; he was fired for it," the lawsuit said. "No woman should be forced to endure sexual harassment from a male superior because he holds her job and financial security in his hands."

A SoFi spokesperson, Jim Prosser, said that the company is familiar with Charles’ allegations, and that "they were investigated in depth by the company and found to have no merit. We will vigorously defend ourselves against any claims otherwise."

The lawsuit comes after high-profile cases of sexual harassment and unethical behavior across Silicon Valley. Revelations started cascading after former engineering employee Susan Fowler at Uber Technologies Inc. alleged that she was sexually harassed at the ride-hailing startup and the case was mishandled by human resources and senior management. Since then, a series of disclosures from women entrepreneurs have revealed systemic harassment by venture capitalists. It’s caused wave of introspection in the technology industry that’s urging companies and other men to do more to report and stand-up to sexual harassment.

Charles said he saw a male manager subjecting female employees to "unwanted, overtly sexual conduct" that included the interjection of "explicit sexual innuendo and statements into normal workplace communications." The lawsuit says that Charles emailed several people in human resources about the harassment. He was told that the complaints were "devoid of merit," and that such complaints were outside his appropriate duties to report to management, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also alleges managers were mishandling loan applications to enhance their quarterly bonuses, which could be as much as $15,000 a quarter. The managers were canceling applications that had “internal errors,” rather than reporting those issues, which would have decreased performance metrics and quarterly bonus awards, the suit says.

San Francisco, California-based SoFi started out in 2011 by refinancing loans taken out by high-earning graduates from top universities. It has since pursued a much more ambitious vision, expanding into products from personal loans, mortgages and wealth-management to life insurance. It was valued at $4.3 billion in its last fundraising round in February.

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