Category: Race Discrimination

A Wildfire in Silicon Valley Ignited

After decades of thinking, “this is just the way things are” the defeat of Ellen Pao ignited a new sensitivity to possible gender discrimination, especially in Silicon Valley. Thus far, two new lawsuits have been filed in the technology mecca, both by women complaining of discrimination and bias based on sex.

Elisabeth Sussex, former counsel for wearable technology company Jawbone, file a wrongful termination suit against her former employer. She alleges that over a year earlier, she filed a complaint against the chief technology officer, Michael Luna for his demeaning behavior. Regardless of her performance, Sussex always received a negative review from Luna. The most recent one being only one month before her termination. She was demoted based on, what she alleges to be, inaccurate and fabricated facts.

Sussex was terminated in April 2014. She further alleges that Luna’s behavior specifically turned female employees away and that kind of behavior was saved for female employees only.

Another Silicon Valley lawsuit details not only gender discrimination, but race discrimination and sexual harassment as well. Heather McCloskey worked for Paymentwall Inc., an online based payment system. McCloskley alleges that her supervisor, Benoit Boisset  said she was in need of a good spanking because she was a “bad girl.” Benoit also compared McCloskey’s chest to an airport runway and mimed oral sex acts toward her.

McCloskey complained, in writing to the CEO, and was fired two weeks later. McCloskey, who was only twenty-three at the time of the incident, had work piled on her with impossible expectations—a mere pretext for her termination.

Pao, though not a favorable verdict for the plaintiff, opened many other Silicon Valley women’s eyes to the possible disparate treatment around them.

Source: Daily Journal

Hooters to Pay Large Award to Blonde Waitress

Hooters, infamous for its continuous litigation and moral debates on how women are portrayed in their company, has been handed another judgement against them. This time, a restaurant manager made the company liable for a $250,000 award for making snarky comments about a female employees’—wait for it—highlights.

The employee, who is African American, had blonde highlights in her hair. The manager of the restaurant fired her for having those highlights, informing her that “black people don’t have blonde hair” and that they could not allow her to work with a “skunk streak” on top of her head. Hooters has an image standard policy that requests servers maintain a “girl next door” look. It is applied evenly regardless of race.

Hooters has responded to the award decision, slamming both the employee’s attorneys and the arbitrator who presided over the case. The company, who had an African American senior brand manager respond to the outcome, alleged the arbitrator was biased against the company from the beginning and that plaintiff’s counsel purposefully refused settling early so that attorneys’ fees could be maximized, while the employee received only a fraction of the award. The plaintiff is sent to receive just shy of $12,000 with the attorneys laying claim to the rest. The company furthered commented that Hooters has, in no way, a discriminatory policy against African Americans. In fact, some of their most recent “Miss Hooters International” pageants have crowned African American women.

Companies have isolated incidents that can support a racial discrimination claim. While the entire company does not have any written discriminatory policies, it takes one middle manager of the company to lay the foundations of a discrimination lawsuit. In this case, it was the manager of the restaurant that made an off the cuff comment that got the company in trouble. Additionally, since the award was determined in arbitration, it’s binding—meaning no longer negotiable. An appeal of the judgement may be in the works from the company.

Sources: ABA Journal & Hooters News

Allegations of Racial Discrimination Against GOP Chairman

John Padgett, head of the Georgia Republican Party, is facing allegations that he engaged in racial discrimination against an employee of one of his privately owned firms. Vanessa Dewberry, a former manager of Southeast Ambulance Inc., run by Padgett’s firm, filed a federal lawsuit against the politician in Atlanta.

Dewberry had a meeting last February with Padgett, who referred to an African American employee as a “black tech that’s supposed to know better.” Dewberry took offense to that statement, and described Padgett’s tone as demeaning.

Padgett is also accused of gender discrimination. He participated in the ridiculing and teasing of a staff member whose gender was questioned. Padgett allegedly referred to the employee as “the one who looks like a boy.” Another employee also called the fellow worker, “it.” This also is captured on the recording from Dewberry. Dewberry claims she immediately voiced her discomfort about the comments and complained to Padgett openly about the inappropriateness of his words.

Not too long after, Dewberry was terminated from her position for “financial reasons.” Dewberry made it clear she was going to take action against Padgett, to which he responded that he had powerful friends.

Dewberry’s complaint names Padgett directly as well as the ambulance company she had been employed with during the racial incidents.


Top Gear—A Show of Car Reviews and Racial Slurs?

Top Gear, a British television program that has been on the air for nearly a decade and a half, has been lauded for its longevity and consistency. The show is watched by 350 million viewers in over 170 countries each week. The show’s iconic host, however, might find himself being driven off in the show’s reasonable priced car.

Jeremy Clarkson, no stranger to controversy, has been suspended from the beloved show “following a fracas” with a producer. Clarkson has been warned repeatedly in the past for unruly behavior, mostly of the racial slur kind, and was told one more infraction could lead to termination.

Clarkson is paid $1.5 million a year to host the show, which may seem small compared to many other television personalities. One has to bear in mind, however, that Clarkson hosts for the BBC, and at $1.5 million a year, he is one of the network’s highest earners. Despite his pay, Clarkson has a track record for upsetting producers and viewers with his politically incorrect remarks.

In January 2012, Clarkson made a remark about a car with a toilet installed while filming in India. Clarkson commented that the car was “perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots.” Indian diplomats were not pleased with the announcer’s assessment. Around the same time, Clarkson made a derogatory comment about Mexicans as well.

In May 2014, Clarkson was slammed for using a derogatory slang term that referred to a member of the Traveler Community. The footage was not meant to be a part of the show, but Clarkson apologized regardless.

Finally, last fall, Clarkson and film crew were chased out of Argentina, igniting Anglo-Argentinian tension, for a license plate that referenced the Falklands Islands’ war of 1982. The plate read H982 FLK; it was interpreted as a dig on Argentina for Britain’s victory in the war. With a cheeky response, Clarkson claimed he had no idea what the plate meant.

Clarkson, himself, is already joking about his possible termination. He tweeted, “Applicant [for Top Gear host] should be old, badly dressed and pedantic but capable of getting to work on time.”

Supporters of the show and of Clarkson are up in arms, already petitioning for his return. The show has been canceled for the remainder of the season (or series as it is called in Britain). In the United States, namely California, an employee has the right to work in an environment that is free from discrimination. Derogatory racist slurs may constitute as creating a hostile work environment based on race. If this incident took place in the US, could Clarkson have made his network liable for racial discrimination claims from other employees? Possibly.

If you feel you have been subjected to racial discrimination in the workplace, contact an Aegis attorney to see if we can help.

Source: New York Times

Crunch Wrap Supremes’ Worth of Trouble—Taco Bell Sued

A Los Angeles based franchisee of Taco Bell is facing a chalupa-sized lawsuit from a former employee. Raymond Brantley, an African-American, is suing Cotti Foods Corp., the franchise owner, for racial discrimination.

Brantley alleges that assistant manager, Juan Mondragon, repeatedly used racially offensive slurs in the restaurant that Brantley was employed. Mondragon would often type offensive comments into the restaurant’s order system in lieu of orders or Brantley’s name. The comments could be seen by other employees on a screen where workers normally viewed and printed copies of the orders.

On many occasions, Brantley attempted to resolve the issues, asking Mondragon to stop. Brantley was not the only employee to be subject to racial discrimination. A string of African-American employees working for the franchise were terminated or transferred out of the location. Ultimately, Brantley transferred as well, but was terminated not too long after arriving at the new facility.

Source: Daily Journal