$1.8 Million Awarded in Discrimination Case

October 12, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A California jury has awarded a former executive of software manufacturer Sybase Inc. $1.8 million over charges of racial discrimination.

>Marietta Harvey, of Filipino decent, was awarded the money in a 9-3 verdict after a trial on charges that she was fired and then subsequently overlooked for two other positions that were later given to white men. The jury heard that Sybase’s president, John Chen, had made comments regarding the company’s extensive diversity, stating that a department “looked like an airport,” according to The Recorder.

“The jury saw that these were nothing but fabricated excuses to cover up for an act of racial discrimination, even though it was by an Asian against another Asian,” plaintiff attorney David Becht told The Recorder.

>Of the $1.8 million award, $1.3 million was earmarked for lost wages, with the other $500,000 being awarded for punitive damages.

>The award is higher than usual cases, according to Jeffrey Tanenbaum, a Nixon Peabody employment expert unaffiliated with the case, possibly because of the ‘airport’ comment. Tanenbaum also commented in The Recorder that single-case discrimination suits are becoming increasingly rare as lawyers focus more of their energy on group age, sexual orientation and religious discrimination cases, and also as employers become more aware of what constitutes discrimination.

The case was heard by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Dombrink.