Black Girls Code files lawsuit against former CEO and founder Kimberly Bryant for ‘hijacking’ website

By greatbritton

Black Girls Code, a nonprofit company that promotes technology education among Black girls, is suing its founder and former CEO Kimberly Bryant for “unlawful hijacking” of the company’s website. This comes after she was removed from her position by the board earlier this month.

The lawsuit was filed in California on Aug. 22, claims Bryant took a series of “inappropriate actions” after she was terminated, including shuttering the organization’s website, which now redirects users to a press release titled “Save Black Girls Code,” according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by NBC News.

According to NBC News:

“Days after her termination, Bryant caused administrative credentials to be used to hijack BGC’s website,” the lawsuit states, “… which displayed a self-serving press release that discloses BGC’s confidential and privileged information.”

In a statement to NBC News, Bryant said the most recent allegations “are without merit” and she plans to “vigorously defend herself against them.”

The lawsuit adds to the ongoing turmoil in the organization after Bryant was fired in early August after more than a decade in the post. Bryant is seeking to be reinstated as CEO and board member, and is also asking for unspecified compensatory damages, according to the lawsuit.

After her removal, Bryant filed an amended federal lawsuit on Aug. 11 accusing board members of defamation, retaliation and wrongful termination from her position as CEO, according to court documents obtained by NBC News. In the lawsuit, she alleges that she was wrongfully removed and excluded from Black Girls Code, and she also claims the organization’s board members wrongfully gained access to her Wells Fargo account, which Bryant opened in January 2012 for Black Girls Code as an unincorporated sole proprietorship.

According to Bryant’s lawsuit, Hiles “became more active in her role as a director” when Black Girls Code’s donations began to increase. Bryant alleges that “Hiles sought to capitalize on BGC’s growth and increased funding for her own personal gain.”

“It is certainly our intention and my intention as the founder of this organization … that I be rightfully put back in place,” Bryant told NBC News, “It pains me deeply.” 

A spokesperson for Black Girls Code denied allegations of theft from the Wells Fargo account.

“Ms. Bryant’s claim about the Wells Fargo account is wrong. It is not her personal account,” a Black Girls Code spokesperson wrote in an email sent to NBC News. “Donations made to BGC belong to the organization, not to Ms. Bryant personally.”

Bryant described her removal as a culmination of bad actors entering the organization with “self-serving motives” to benefit from the resources of Black Girls Code.

Heather Hiles, a board member named in the suit, denied those claims.

“I have zero intention or desire to take over this organization,” Hiles, who uses “they” and “them” pronouns, told NBC News. “Never in a million years have I thought of enriching myself through Black Girls Code…I don’t know why I became a bad actor other than I care about how our employees, current and former, were treated.”

While Bryant seeks to have her position restored, she said she also worries about the organization’s future under the current board.

“They are not good representatives of this organization, which was meant to support and uplift young Black girls,” she said. “The decision and the events that transpired on Friday were devastating.”

Black Girls Code, a multimillion dollar nonprofit organization founded in 2011 by Bryant, was created to address the lack of representation of Black women and girls in the tech field. However, the company found itself embroiled in controversy when allegations of Bryant creating a toxic work environment started to make noise last year according to the lawsuit that Bryant filed. In December 2021, Bryant was put on administrative paid leave to review complaints against her, according to the lawsuit filed by Black Girls Code. According to TechCrunch, two former employees said they resigned from the company because of Bryant’s leadership style, which they claim was “rooted in fear.”

Bryant’s firing comes after at least three years of high turnover in the organization.

“There are people that resigned without having other jobs because they could not handle the toxic work environment anymore,” Hiles said. “People were experiencing bad treatment and we couldn’t just ignore that.”

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