Joining the growing list of media companies reckoning with their histories of inequity and abuse, Complex is now under scrutiny by former staffers for perpetuating what they describe as a racist and sexist workplace, with many speaking out despite their nondisclosure agreements. Former Complex employee Tiffany Wines, in an open letter posted to Twitter, wrote about the “daily microagressions Complex culture is notorious for,” and specifically called for the resignation of Jay Salim and Arman Walia, both senior employees at Complex.
“Complex Networks would and could not exist without Black art, Black consumers, and Black labor, but the company itself is not a safe space for its most vulnerable population: Black women,” Wines wrote. “I want to address the toxic workplace culture steeped in misogyny, anti-Blackness, favoritism, rape culture, and pay inequity across demographic lines that has thrived for far too long.” Wines detailed the demeaning and inappropriate behavior she experienced while working with Walia, and said that reporting him to Salim, along with “at least five other women,” did not stop Walia from later getting promoted. She also described an incident at the Complex office involving drugged cookies that was “one of the most traumatic experiences of [her] life,” and said that management at Complex swept the issue under the rug. “I never felt safe in the office again,” she wrote.
Following Wines’s open letter, numerous former employees tweeted about their experiences at Complex, echoing Wines’s description of a toxic and unsafe workplace. “The last few days have been tiring and triggering. Despite also signing an NDA, I have to publicly stand with [Wines]. Complex is a machine that grinds up Black women for sport. It is astounding, the BS I was forced to endure,” former associate editor at Complex Kiana Fitzgerald wrote. “What toxic Complex story should I share?” former deputy editor at Complex Kerensa Cadenas tweeted. “Rape joke in the bullpen I couldn’t report, 20K less I made than the men in the same position as me, probation period I was put on ‘for not smiling enough’ after being told if everyone worked as hard as I did it would be a better place.”
Complex Networks addressed the stories shared by former employees with a short statement on Twitter. “We believe Complex Networks is a great place to work, but it is by no means perfect,” the statement began. “It’s our passion for our brands, communities, colleagues, and the belief that a safe and inclusive workplace should be the expectation for everyone … that make this company what it is today.” In response, Wines pointed out whoever had written the statement “can’t even list ‘colleagues’ before ‘brands.’” Other former Complex employees described the statement as “pitiful” and “insulting.”