Top PC cooling component manufacturer EKWB accused of culture of racism, sexism and overwork

By admin Apr29,2024

Last week Dan Henderson, a former product manager at PC water-cooling manufacturer EK Water Blocks, made a public post on LinkedIn, in which he described almost four months of no pay, and being “strong armed and bullied into signing a new contract through fear of losing my job and also financial ruin.” He also accused the company – one of the biggest in the space – of “blatant racism…psychological manipulation, plain bare faced lying, [and] severe unprofessionalism.”

Last Tuesday, following a report by PCGN regarding this toxic working environment – “beset by racism and unprofessionalism” – a follow-up by Tom’s Hardware has gathered testimony from multiple former employees, corroborating the original allegations and also accusing the company of withholding overtime pay.

In the initial report, PCGN’s Ben Hardwidge spoke to Henderson, who shared screenshots of internal communications on Microsoft Teams showing staff making racist jokes. To quote the original report:

“One staff member replaces the word ‘black’ in the product title with the N-word, while referencing the EK-Quantum Impulse 120 D-RGB fan. This message, which has three laughing emoji reactions, is followed with the words “don’t screenshot this.” Another member of staff then changes the N-word to ‘PoC’ – referencing people of color – to “get [it] correct” while joking that “we’re good” because there are no “PoC in the chat.”

Henderson also told PCGN he’d experienced one staff member making racist remarks to “one of [his] techs in Texas, who is black.” Elsewhere in the piece, Henderson also told Hardwidge that the company’s recent troubles are “because of greed.” In 2022, EKWB laid off 25% of its workforce, blaming low sales. More recently, as well as the withholding of employee pay Henderson alluded to, the company have allegedly had issues paying suppliers, with “five-figure sums” owed, as outlined in this video report by Gamers Nexus.

Last Wednesday, Avram Piltch of Tom’s Hardware spoke to Henderson and other former employees, including former Regional Sales Manager Jemari Serraty, who paint an equally grim picture of EKWB’s financial situation, and how employees there were treated:

“According to Henderson and the other employees we spoke to, the Slovenian managers repeatedly belittled the American employees, calling them lazy and stupid and blaming them for issues with the company’s inventory management. Henderson and other employees told us that EK rarely knew how many of any product it had in inventory because its software was so frequently incorrect.”

“There were lots of inventory issues. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock were not accounted for,” Henderson said. “It could say we have 50 distro plates in stock, and we have no distro plates in stock.”

Tom’s Hardware continue:

“Serraty, who said he was the only Black employee in the office, described having a former coworker who made racist jokes comparing him to chocolate and almost hit him with a forklift on several occasions. According to Henderson, a visiting manager from Slovenia also told Serraty a racist joke about chocolate.”

One former employee spoken to mentions managers describing Hispanic co-workers as “lazy mexicans,” and having their desk moved next to other POC employees, “effectively keeping the seating in one area segregated.” An anonymous female employee describe the workplace culture as “a boys club,” receiving pushback whenever she “tried to exercise any authority over her male counterparts.”

As further detailed in the report, EKWB refused to pay Henderson several months worth of salary after a dispute over a commission, which was the final straw that led to his LinkedIn post. EKWB have since demanded 70,000 Euros and threatened a lawsuit if Henderson doesn’t remove the post.

Following both reports, EKWB have released several statements, both to the publications and publicly. They told PCGN that the aforementioned racist incidents were “handled internally with involved people, and actions were taken,” and that “all debts towards [Henderson] have been settled.” They told Tom’s Hardware that ““EK fully supports diversity and inclusion among employees. Any actions related to discrimination such as racial, sexual, religious, political, physical or psychological violence are not tolerated in the EK working environment.”

Since then, EKWB’s founder and CEO, Edvard König, has also released an official statement, in which he commits to “fulfilling our financial obligations and regaining your trust.” The toxic workplace culture is not mentioned in the statement. He also commits to “Resolving any outstanding overtime work issues of EK employees,” although so far, the steps taken to solve these issues seem to have stopped at setting up a dedicated email address.

By admin

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