Kanye West sued again: Yeezy employees allege toxic work environment, unpaid wages

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Ye, formerly Kanye West, is at the center of legal strife again. The embattled rapper has been sued by former employees of his Yeezy brand after he was accused in separate, additional lawsuits of sexually harassing a personal assistant and of workplace abuses at his Donda Academy earlier this year.

Attorneys Jordanna Thigpen and Ben Locklyer filed a lawsuit over the weekend in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of eight people, four of whom are minors, who claim they developed an app for the rapper’s brand. The complaint accuses Ye, Yeezy and the rapper’s former chief of staff, Milo Yiannopoulos, of fostering a toxic workplace characterized by racial discrimination, forced labor and a failure to pay employees for their work.

A representative for Ye did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment Tuesday.

Far-right political commentator Yiannopoulos denounced the allegations and the “joke lawsuit” in a statement shared Saturday on X (formerly Twitter). He singled out a “disgruntled” accuser and said the complaint was “the most dishonest thing I’ve ever seen filed in a court.”

The suit centers on the development of a Yeezy streaming app where West said he would drop “Vultures 2,” his upcoming studio album with Ty Dolla Sign. The controversial rapper — who fell from public grace in recent years for antisemitic tirades — expressed his interest in having his own streaming platform in March. This prompted app developers — including some of the plaintiffs — to connect with West and his team. By April, one app called YZYVSN was acquired by Yeezy, and Yiannopoulos promised its developers $120,000 in payment upon its completion, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs, who range in age from 14 to 24 and hail from different parts of the world, were required to sign NDAs and “‘volunteer’ agreements” as part of the acquisition, the suit says. Developers mainly communicated through channels on the company’s Discord, a group chat service.

The chat was “filled with harassment regarding age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and origin/ethnicity,” the suit alleges. One Discord channel was allegedly titled “New Slaves” ( also the name of a 2013 song by West) and “some team members were called ‘slaves.’”

Yiannopoulos allegedly “perpetuated” the racist behavior and had “used a Black/brown skin emoji” to reference plaintiff Shemar DaCosta, who is Black. Racial slurs and other derogatory terms “were often used to mock, demean, and discriminate” Black and African developers, and minor YZYVSN developers were also subjected to harassment, the suit says. The suit alleges that white developers also working on YZYVSN were “secretly given promises of jobs at Yeezy.”

Additionally, the accusers say they were harassed and their pay was threatened if they did not agree to “work for long hours without breaks.” Some plaintiffs, living in different time zones, sacrificed school and personal time to work on the app. Working conditions were particularly strenuous during “rush week,” when developers moved to finish the app by an early May deadline to coincide with the release of Ye’s “Vultures 2.” The app was allegedly completed May 2, but Ye has yet to release the new album.

YZYVSN app developers, including the minor employees, were also exposed to pornography in company Discord chats, the suit alleges. TMZ reported in late April that Ye was interested in creating his own adult content studio. Ye’s wife Bianca Censori allegedly sent a YZYVSN developer “a file sharing link of hardcore pornography for the Yeezy Porn App” and pornographic photos were allegedly “openly disseminated” on Discord.

“Despite having direct knowledge of the toxic, abusive and exploitative working environment, Defendants did nothing to stop or otherwise present it,” the suit says.

Yiannopoulos denied those allegations in a statement posted Monday on X. “Yeezy Porn doesn’t exist,” he said. “I made sure of that by falling on my sword and quitting over it.”

Yiannopoulos also said that he has worked to get developers paid, citing “voluminous correspondence,” and denied allegations of “whites only” group chats, fostering a hostile workplace (“How can that be? You were never hired”) and taking advantage of minor employees.

The suit alleges that its eight plaintiffs have yet to receive payment and credit for their work on YZYVSN and also have experienced anxiety and depression, among other health concerns, as a result of their time working for Yeezy. The lawsuit goes into more detail about each of the plaintiffs and their personal experiences working on the app for Ye. Prior to filing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs filed harassment and discrimination complaints with the California Civil Rights Department, which granted them a “right to sue” letter, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial and seek an unspecified amount in damages including legal fees, emotional distress, unpaid wages and overtime wages.

“We believe a jury will agree that these employers must be accountable,” attorney Thigpen said in a statement to The Times.

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