A pair of former employees at the digital food media company Feedfeed have accused the company of race and gender discrimination, fostering a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and providing unequal pay in a federal lawsuit filed last Tuesday.
Rachel Gurjar, a native of Mumbai who says she worked for Feedfeed from 2018 to 2020, and Sahara Henry-Bohoskey, a Black woman who says she worked there from 2018 to 2021, stated in their complaint that they were paid less than white employees, subjected to racist comments and retaliated against when they complained. They said in the complaint that the work environment became so "emotionally distressing" that they felt they had no option but to quit.
"You may have heard that Feedfeed was sued this week by two former employees," they wrote. "We are deeply saddened by these events. We take allegations of this nature very seriously and spent many months investigating each claim with a team of legal and HR experts.
"While we would never want to invalidate someone's feelings, the complaint is built on false, inaccurate, and misleading information."
In a lengthy Instagram post of her own last Tuesday, Gurjar detailed her time with Feedfeed, calling it "one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life."
Henry-Bohoskey shared a lengthy Instagram post as well on Tuesday, writing that she was "paraded as the sole Black diversity hire and tokenized for clout" while at Feedfeed. This allegation was further detailed in the complaint by a Slack message Dan Resnick allegedly wrote in 2020 to former Feedfeed senior editor Molly Adams regarding whether or not it was appropriate to give Henry-Bohoskey extra work.
"The world wants food media companies to rightfully hire more diverse staff. We have that diversity. So why would we not be leveraging it," he allegedly wrote.
The two former employees also say in the lawsuit that they were paid less than white peers despite being hired at the same time for comparable jobs.
For example, the complaint states the salary of one food editor, who is white and had no experience in the culinary industry, as $65,000. Gurjar, who attended culinary school and worked in the industry prior to joining Feedfeed, was hired with as a social media coordinator for a salary of $50,400, and the complaint says it took her two years to earn her white counterpart’s salary.
Matthew Berger, the attorney for the Resnicks, told TODAY Food in an email that "Rachel and Sahara have compared themselves to employees who had different job functions and had more relevant experience when they applied for the job. Feedfeed, like any business, pays employees based on their prior experience brought forward at the time of hire, and rewards exceptional work."
"We, like any business, pay employees based on their prior experience brought forward at the time of the hire, and reward exceptional work," the Resnicks said in their statement in response.
Gurjar and Henry-Bohoskey also named former Feedfeed editorial and test kitchen director Jake Cohen as a defendant in the lawsuit. Cohen allegedly "became an immediate and active participant in the abuse," according to the complaint. (Disclosure: Gurjar has previously contributed to TODAY Food and Cohen has previously appeared on TODAY).
In the lawsuit, Cohen is accused of mocking Gurjar’s accent (English is her second language), screaming at Gurjar and Henry-Bohoskey across the room and forcing them to perform menial tasks like carrying out large bags of garbage down the stairs that were not part of their job description.
Cohen, a food influencer with more than a million TikTok followers, responded in a statement to TODAY.
"The claims made in this complaint do not reflect my true character," Cohen said. "Many of them did not occur and others have been distorted.
"During my time as an employee of Feedfeed, I tried to offer guidance, mentorship, flexibility and a path for advancement to everyone I worked with."
"I am truly sorry for offensive comments that I made," Cohen said in his statement. "While nothing can take these words back, moving forward I resolve to learn from my actions and take responsibility as I seek to be a part of advancing equity in the food community.”
Gurjar and Henry-Bohoskey also say in the lawsuit that former Feedfeed art and experiential director Giora Stuchiner, who is not listed as a defendant, consistently singled theme out for "the worst of his verbal abuse," including allegedly asking Henry-Bohoskey in front of the staff, "Why do Black people get so offended over watermelon?”
Stuchiner, who was born and raised in Israel, told TODAY in an email that "the watermelon question was asked out of genuine curiosity. In Israel, where I grew up, watermelons are a staple and I genuinely was trying to understand the context of why they are considered a racist trope in the U.S. I am deeply sorry that this innocent question offended Sahara, that was never my intention."
He also is accused in the complaint of repeatedly making misogynist comments like saying menstruation was "disgusting" and flying into "an open rage" in view of the staff at the sight of a tampon wrapper in the unisex restroom.
"These allegations are completely false," Stuchiner told TODAY.
"I have never made any comment about menstruation or anything of that sort," he said.
Henry-Bohoskey told TODAY that Feedfeed didn't have an HR department until late 2020, and by then, Giora had been fired.
Henry-Bohoskey said they reported his behavior to Cohen and later the Resnicks.
"They said they did an internal investigation, whatever that means," Henry-Bohoskey told TODAY in an email. The Resnicks say they laid him off at the beginning of the pandemic after investigating the complaint. Giora told TODAY that it is his understanding that was laid off because of the pandemic.
Gurjar also alleges in the lawsuit that she was asked to perform some of Stuchiner's duties as art director for no extra pay.
The Resnicks' attorney told TODAY that "Giora was the art director for a brief time period in early 2019. He was let go in March of 2020. He had not been performing any art director duties for over six months prior to his departure and Dan and Julie were handling the duties that had previously been assigned to the art director role. Rachel was never asked to perform art director duties."
Henry-Bohoskey and Gurjar also routinely worked more than 40 hours a week yet were not given overtime pay, according to the lawsuit. Henry-Bohoskey told TODAY that she received a check for $31,677 after she left the company for overtime pay, but "this was also not complete, they still owe us." Gurjar said she received a check for $38,170.20, but added that the amount doesn't cover the overtime she worked in 2018.
The Resnicks attorney told TODAY in an email that "to the extent there was any inadvertent underpayment during their employment, the company calculated a good faith estimate of supposed back pay based on their assertions that they 'worked late nights, weekends and various holidays' and should have been paid overtime for that work, and sent Rachel and Sahara checks for that amount."
"Our only ask of you, our community," the Resnicks said in their statement, "is to reserve judgment on this matter until all the facts are presented in court, not parsed out online."