A former Sony employee who was featured in a Black History Month video meant to tout the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion says that her experience there did not match the corporate rhetoric. This month she filed a lawsuit in a California court claiming discrimination and retaliation. In the suit, she alleges that she was hired only “as a token to fill Sony’s diversity numbers.”
The plaintiff joined the company last fall as a strategic account manager. She says it wasn’t long before her supervisor started making repeated racist statements, including derogatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement and Black people in general.
What happened when she complained?
When the plaintiff expressed concerns about these comments to upper management and human resources personnel, some of her clients were taken away and she was excluded from meetings. She was terminated last year while she was on sick leave. The reason given, according to the lawsuit, was “supposed failure to meet the requirements set forth in her ‘success plan.’”
Third-party investigators looked into the situation earlier this year and reportedly found no evidence of any violations of company policy. However, another former employee who was interviewed by investigators says that they were more focused on her behavior: “Was she out of hand? Was she, you know, was she an angry Black woman? They didn’t ask that question specifically, obviously, but that’s what it felt like.”
What is the lawsuit seeking?
The plaintiff has named several members of upper management along with the company in her lawsuit. She’s seeking lost earnings, damages and injunctive relief based on affirmative action employment laws. She’s also asking Sony to end its race and gender discrimination.
We often see corporate giants leap aboard the bandwagon to support popular causes and tout their commitment to the rights of marginalized groups. However, they need managers at all levels of a company to carry out that commitment in the workplace. If they don’t, the company cannot stand behind those managers – even when they’re trying to protect their reputation and bottom line if they don’t want to face legal action.
If you’re the victim of workplace discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation, you have a right to seek justice and compensation. This can not only help you as you move on, but it can help provide a more supportive workplace for others.