A former female Twitter Inc. engineer, recently sued the social media company for gender bias, claiming that she was denied promotions and forced out of the company because she is a woman. A state judge in San Francisco has tentatively ruled that the ex-employee cannot expand her case to also challenge a contract provision that bars employees leaving the company from recruiting their colleagues. The judge found that these two issues are too disparate to be pursued in the same lawsuit. However, the judge said that the plaintiff may be able to pursue her gender claim as a class action lawsuit, including all female engineers working for Twitter.
By prohibiting the plaintiff in this case from joining the non-solicitation claim, Twitter and other Silicon Valley tech companies are dodging a bullet. According to a law professor at the University of San Diego, these clauses are common in the tech industry, but many question whether they are enforceable in California. The top companies are all vying for key players in a relatively small talent pool. At this point, it is unclear how far these companies can go to prevent the poaching of talent.
This case initially only sought to bring Twitter to justice on the gender bias issues. However, the plaintiff alleges that Twitter threatened her and a former colleague identified as a sympathetic witness with legal action for violating non-solicitation agreements in their contracts. Both now work at the venture capital firm Sutter Hill Ventures.
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