February 3rd, 2017
On November 22, 2016, a federal lawsuit was filed against Facebook alleging race discrimination. In Robert Baron Duffy, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., et al., 5:16-cv-6764 (N.D. Cal.), Robert Baron Duffy , a former African-American employee, and Robert Louis Gary, a current African-American employee of Facebook , allege that the social media giant failed to respond promptly to complaints of discrimination at the company’s North Carolina data center.
Mr. Duffy was a Facebook manager. He claims to have left his job in recent months after being stripped of many of his duties and confronting systemic racism, including remarks from a supervisor. Mr. Gary is still employed with the company and works as a maintenance worker, though he claims he is paid lower wages than similarly situated Caucasian co-workers in the same position and also receives lower raises.
According to the Complaint, the harassment took place over a three-year period and consisted of one of the managers at the North Carolina facility referring to African-American employees as “nigger” and “monkey.” The Complaint cites patterns of alleged discrimination and other racist acts taking place, including racial epithets and joking about another African-American employee’s allergy to bananas. The Complaint also says that despite notification to Facebook’s Human Resources at its corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California and supervisors in North Carolina concerning the harassment, “Facebook allowed and continues to allow retaliation against the employees reporting discrimination to fester and continue.”
While the Duffy v. Facebook, Inc. case is still in its preliminary stage and allegations have yet to be proven, the allegations demonstrate the need for an employer to immediately and adequately respond to reports of unlawful conduct. Prompt action by an employer to investigate and implement any appropriate corrective measures can effectively reduce, or even eliminate, potential liability for a discrimination claim. Likewise, employees subjected to unlawful discrimination should report the harassment in compliance with any reporting procedures, and if there are none, then to the employee’s supervisor and/or Human Resources department. An employee will be in the best position to pursue a claim for unlawful harassment if the employer has been notified of the harassment but has failed to take reasonable action.
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