Federal Race Discrimination Lawsuit Accused Cosmetics Company CEO of a Wide Range of Derogatory Statements

A federal lawsuit filed by a former cosmetics company employee, which has since been settled and dismissed, raised claims of race, ethnicity, and national origin discrimination, retaliation, and other claims. Meyers v. Revlon, Inc., et al, No. 1:14-cv-10213, complaint (S.D.N.Y., Dec. 30, 2014). The plaintiff accused the chief executive officer (CEO) of numerous derogatory statements, and of retaliation for noting and reporting safety and regulatory concerns. The lawsuit asserted causes of action under federal, state, and city law, including New Jersey’s whistleblower protection statute.

According to his complaint, the plaintiff worked in the cosmetics industry for 35 years, rising from an entry-level position to the defendant’s Chief Science Officer. He took that position in 2010, and he stated that “his career progressed without impediment until November 2013.” Id. at 1. The defendant acquired Colomer, a beauty care company based in Spain, in August 2013. In November 2013, it named Colomer’s CEO as its new CEO and President.

The plaintiff claimed that he played a key role in integrating the two companies, which included reviewing Colomer’s regulatory compliance. He reported concerns about Colomer’s facility in Barcelona to the new CEO. He claimed that the CEO became angry and told him not to discuss regulatory or safety matters with him in order to maintain “plausible deniability.” Id. at 15. From then on, the CEO allegedly harassed and belittled the plaintiff, often in front of colleagues.

With regard to race discrimination, the plaintiff stated that, of the nine members of the defendant’s senior leadership team, he was the only American and the only Jewish member. He alleged that the CEO “created…an abusive environment where discriminatory comments were commonplace,” id. at 18, and that the defendant tolerated this. The CEO allegedly made derogatory comments about Americans and Jews on a regular basis. The plaintiff also outlines various negative comments made by the CEO about Asians and black people, including while on a business trip to South Africa.

The CEO allegedly told the senior leadership team and others “that he would punish them if they complained about him.” Id. at 23. The plaintiff claimed that he began to suffer health problems because of the CEO’s behavior towards him, and that he was hospitalized for three days for chest pains in November 2014. His doctor advised him to take additional medical leave the following month. At about the same time, the plaintiff retained counsel “to protect himself.” Id. at 25. The defendant allegedly fired him a week later, on December 10, 2014, although it claimed that the plaintiff resigned.

The plaintiff asserted seven causes of action:
1. Race/ethnicity discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981;
2. Retaliation under § 1981;
3-5. Race/ethnicity/national origin discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § 296; the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107; and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. § 10:5-12;
6. Retaliation under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. § 34:19-3 (PDF file); and 7. Restraint and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2615.

The parties settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount and signed a stipulation of dismissal on March 3, 2015. The court signed the order of dismissal with prejudice on March 23.

If you need to speak to an employment discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

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
Investigating Employees’ Work Eligibility May Violate Anti-Discrimination Laws, Warns Justice Department, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 21, 2014

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