Late on Sunday, a digital marketer named Penny Kim posted a workplace horror story on Medium. According to her account, Kim moved from Dallas to San Francisco to take a job at a startup in May 2016, and dealt with insane working conditions up until early August.
Her post details mismanagement, employees lending the CEO five-figure sums to cover expenses, and alleged attempts to defraud employees by the company's CEO. The post also says the company still has at least "8 young Chinese employees" who are reliant on it to sponsor their H-1B visas, and who Kim says "end up being the ones to suffer the most."
In her post, Kim changed the names of those involved and didn't finger the company itself. However, some sleuths at Hacker News quickly pegged the likely candidate as WrkRiot, a job-search website that has already changed its name twice. WrkRiot has yet to launch, but if it is the company in question, Kim wrote that it "considered [its] competition to include Indeed, CareerBuilder, Angel.co, Zip Recruiter, and of course LinkedIn." An archived version of its website displays a prompt to request a beta invitation.
After it was outed, WrkRiot responded by threatening legal action against Kim, posting the following on its Facebook page (via Select All):
While it is not our policy to discuss personnel matters, we want to make it clear that this former employee was fired for cause. Signed affidavits from current employees attest to this former employee’s failure to perform her required duties in the workplace. In addition, they attest to her participation in an attempt to undermine or oust certain members of management.
This former employee demanded a sum of $50,000 upon her departure. Under no verbal agreement, contract or any other type of covenant was this person entitled to such a sum. After learning that WrkRiot would not pay what it considered extortion money, this former employee began her campaign of slanderous of activity over the Internet.
Strangely, after posting this response the company not only deleted its post, but its entire Facebook page, as well as its website, which was up and running as recently as yesterday afternoon. Isaac Choi, who's listed as CEO on the archived site, appears to have deleted his LinkedIn account. The only official social media presence left standing is a Twitter account which went silent about a day ago. I've reached out to WrkRiot via Twitter, and I'll update the post if it gets back to me.
This isn't the first time a former employee has called out a company in public. In February, a former-Yelp customer service worker named Talia Jane posted a letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman detailing poor working conditions. She was subsequently fired, but Yelp did also make a public show of raising wages after the incident.
Taken as a whole, it seems like WrkRiot is hoping that if it vanishes and/or changes names, the company and its executives can escape public scrutiny. After all, changing your name to make sure "fraud" doesn't pop up in your company's Google results is just another way of pivoting, right?
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org