A former program manager for the internet company Facebook has filed a lawsuit against the company in state court in California, alleging sexual harassment and discrimination based on race and gender. Hong v. Facebook, Inc., et al, No. CIV-532943, complaint (Cal. Super. Ct., San Mateo Co., Mar. 16, 2015). The case alleges numerous acts of conduct towards the plaintiff that, when taken in isolation, might seem minor, but that add up over time to constitute significant disparate treatment based on her gender and her national origin. The laws at the state and federal level are clear that employers may not discriminate in promotions, job duties, and other features of employment based on these categories. These types of claims, unfortunately, can be difficult to prove. Another recent lawsuit against a Silicon Valley venture capital firm made similar allegations but resulted in a jury verdict for the defendant. The current case makes a wide range of allegations, however, that indicate overtly discriminatory treatment towards the plaintiff.
According to her complaint, the defendant hired the plaintiff in June 2010 for the position of program manager. It transferred her to “technology partner” in October 2012. She claims that she performed her job duties well throughout her time with the company, pointing to “satisfactory performance evaluations” and regular raises as evidence. Hong, complaint at 2. Prior to the events immediately preceding her termination, she states that she “received no significant criticism of her work.” Id. She was allegedly terminated on October 17, 2013.
The plaintiff alleges that multiple employees of the defendant, including her supervisor, who is named individually as a defendant, and others identified in the complaint as “Does One through Thirty,” discriminated against her based on gender. This allegedly included comments belittling her work and admonishment for “exercis[ing] her right under company policy to take time off to visit her child at school.” Id. at 3. She also claims that she was given assignments that no male co-workers were expected to do, such as organizing office parties and serving drinks. She makes a direct allegation that the company hired a “less qualified, less experienced male” to replace her. Id.
Co-workers allegedly “belittled or ignored” the plaintiff at meetings “in which she was one of the only employees of Chinese descent,” and they told her that “she was not integrated into the team because she looks different and talks differently than other team members.” Id. at 7. The plaintiff claims that the defendant’s policies may appear neutral with regard to race, but they result in a “disparate impact on the class of Taiwanese employees.” Id.
The lawsuit asserts 11 causes of action, including sex discrimination, sex harassment, race or national origin discrimination, race or national origin harassment, and retaliation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. This law is similar in most respects to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12. She also asserts five causes of action for “discharge in violation of public policy” for each state law claim, alleging that the defendant wrongfully terminated her on the basis of race or sex, or in retaliation for asserting her rights. Finally, she asserts a common-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against all the defendants, stating that they “were in a position of power over plaintiff, with the potential to abuse that power.” Hong, complaint at 12.
If you need to speak to an attorney regarding an employment discrimination matter in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997.
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New Jersey Federal Court Allows Race, National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit to Proceed, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, January 27, 2015
Former Sales Executive Obtains $11.6 Million Verdict in Wrongful Termination Lawsuit, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 12, 2014