Following a three week trial, a California jury awarded a man from Ecuador $1.13 million in a discrimination case he brought against a company that makes sonar equipment. The man claimed he was discriminated against at work because of his national origin.
The man had worked for the company, which is a subsidiary of a Danish corporation, for almost 20 years when he was fired in 2011. He says he was given no warning of his termination. The man was an engineer with a master’s degree and a PhD. He began working for the company in 1992 when it was a small family-owned company of eight employees. Over the course of his employment, it grew to 200 employees in six offices.
According to testimony offered during the lawsuit, the company had a history of discriminating against employees who weren’t Danish. It was well-known in the organization that if you didn’t have a Danish passport, you would not succeed within the company. According to some employees, there was a term used in the office called “Danish immunity”, which meant that if an employee was Danish, he or she could perform badly at work and still keep his or her job.
There was also evidence offered that the plaintiff was specifically discriminated against because of his race. In 2010, company executives made the man go on a business trip to Mexico during a time of a lot of drug cartel activity. The other engineers were afraid to go, and company executives said that the plaintiff would be safer in Mexico since he wasn’t white. The plaintiff admits that he speaks with a heavy accent, but says he always performed his job well. He also believes that the company singled him out because of his age and because he asked for some accommodations at work after he suffered from a workplace injury.
Testimony was also offered during the trial showing that the plaintiff’s work evaluations were extremely good, and that supervisors described his productivity as excellent. The employee who replaced the plaintiff after he was fired was much less qualified for the job. In addition, the company destroyed company records after the termination.
The jury awarded the man $1.13 million because of the unfair treatment and the emotional distress he had to endure. According to the plaintiff, he suffered from depression as a result of the termination. He has had a hard time finding another job, in part because his former company would often serve subpoenas to the companies to which he was applying, which likely hurt his employment chances. Another employee of the company, a sales manager, is also suing the company for discrimination.
It’s not uncommon for a company which originates from another country, but is located in the United States, to prefer employees from its country of origin. However, although that may be a common practice, it’s illegal under federal and state employment discrimination laws. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of their national origin. Therefore, it’s illegal for a company which is located in the United States, but which is owned by a company in Japan, to refuse to hire a non-Japanese individual. Instead, the company must offer employees the same opportunities regardless of where they are from. In addition, a company cannot refuse to hire an individual because of his or her national origin or ethnicity.
It’s unfortunate that in America, which was designed to be a melting pot of many different cultures and races, that workplace discrimination still exists. Fortunately, federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act make it illegal to discriminate in the workplace, and victims of discrimination can seek compensation for their damages.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employee should not be judged based on their national origin, but instead their performance at work. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland national origin discrimination attorney, at 501-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. We will be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Call today to learn more.