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Former WeWork VP sues, alleging age discrimination

A former vice president at WeWork Cos. sued the co-working giant this week, alleging the company hired a younger man to take over his responsibilities and terminated him when he complained.

Richard Markel, 62, claimed the New York-based company discriminated against him based on his age after hiring him last year to be the vice president of construction for the West Coast. The lawsuit, filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court, also alleged the company misrepresented the job position, characterizing it as long term, and retaliated against him for reporting discrimination to human resources.

WeWork declined to comment. The company has faced similar litigation in the past: In October, former employee Ruby Anaya, sued the company over sexual harassment, retaliation and gender discrimination after she said she was harassed by two colleagues at company events.

WeWork, a startup valued at $47 billion, rents out office space on a short-term basis and has more than 425 locations in dozens of countries. It often takes on long-term leases in buildings and redesigns the interiors for flexible use.

Markel started working for WeWork last year because it acquired part of a construction company he worked for, UA Builders Group, according to the suit. He was asked to take on his new role at WeWork and move from New York to San Francisco, where he started work in April last year and was paid a $300,000 annual salary with stock options vesting over five years.

In September, according to the suit, WeWork hired someone with the same title as Markel who was about 20 years younger than him without explaining why. By January, internal systems showed that Markel reported to the new worker, and he was no longer getting invited to meetings. He told human resources in February that he thought he was being discriminated against for his age. He was told his role was being eliminated in April, less than a month before he would have started receiving stock options under a vesting schedule.

WeWork has all of its employees sign mandatory arbitration agreements, but Markel’s attorney, Ryan Vlasak, said if the company makes a motion to move the case to arbitration, he will oppose it because he believes the wording of the agreement doesn’t apply to this case. “We don’t believe it’s enforceable,” he said.

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