Facebook
Facebook is being sued by a former employee who claims that she was discriminated against for being a woman and for being Taiwanese. (Reuters)

Facebook is being sued by a former employee for gender and racial discrimination and she is being represented by the same lawyers currently representing Ellen Pao, another high-profile gender discrimination trial currently ongoing in the US.

Chia Hong worked for Facebook for three years from June 2010 and was fired from the company in October 2013. Her lawsuit, filed in San Mateo Superior Court on 16 March, states that Hong's former boss Anil Wilson "belittled" and harassed her for being a woman and for being Taiwanese.

It sounds surprising considering the fact that Facebook employs Sheryl Sandberg, who is a leading advocate for working mothers in the US, but Hong claims that she was criticised for taking one day of leave a month to volunteer at her child's school, although this was allowed under the company policy.

Hong also says that Wilson asked her why she did "not just stay home and take care of her children" and she was "ordered to organise parties and serve drinks to male colleagues" – something none of her male colleagues were asked to do.

She also claims that during group meetings, where she was one of the few women present, her input was belittled and ignored, and that Wilson had referred to her as an "order taker".

Hong, who was hired in 2010 as a program manager and later became a technology partner in 2012 and then fired a year later, claims that her replacement was an Indian male with far less experience and fewer qualifications.

The lawsuit also states that Hong had good performance reviews and received raises and stock options with Facebook – until she filed a complaint about Wilson. After this she claims that Facebook retaliated by giving her a negative evaluation and then firing her.

Facebook has denied Hong's allegations and said in a statement: "We work extremely hard on issues related to diversity, gender and equality, and we believe we've made progress.

"In this case we have substantive disagreements on the facts, and we believe the record shows the employee was treated fairly."

Hong claims that the harassment she received and the termination from her job caused her "severe emotional distress", as well as loss of earnings and benefits. However the lawsuit does not name a specific damaged amount.

As of 2014, Facebook employs a workforce worldwide where 31% are female and 69% are male. Hong's case is already causing a big stir in Silicon Valley, where in the last two months there have been reports that women are leaving the US technology industry in droves due to not being able to get ahead due to their gender.

Out of all of the high profile tech companies in the world, only Google has been open about its HR practices. The firm realised that women were being promoted less often than men as the company structure required employees to nominate themselves to be promoted.

The office culture meant that women were more likely to be rewarded for modesty, but penalised for what men saw as "aggressive" behaviour, so in 2013 Google began workshops with female leaders to coach men and women about to promote themselves effectively, which led more women nominating themselves for promotion.