Chatarpaul Law Firm files lawsuit against CORBION d/b/a/ Caravan Ingredients Inc.
RACE AND ETHNICITY DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST CORBION, STEPHANIE WYPSEK, CORBON’S HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER (HRM) AND SCOTT MULLIGAN, CORBION’S OPERATION MANAGER (OPM), FOR FIRING A LONG-TERM MINORITY EMPLOYEE WHO HAD BEEN EMPLOYED FOR 20 YEARS, WHILE FAILING TO DISCIPLINE A RECENTLY HIRED WHITE EMPLOYEE FOR FAR WORST CONDUCT.
We filed a Race and Ethnicity Discrimination case against CORBION d/b/a/ Caravan Ingredients Inc. on behalf a client who worked for Corbion for 20 years and was fired for engaging in what he believed was workplace banter with a white co-worker.
The case (“complaint”) was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, and alleges, among other claims, as follows:
- Plaintiff (the person who filed the lawsuit), a father of two (2) children and of Guyanese-Indian origin, worked for Corbion for approximately 20 years as a material handler, and at the time of his termination, earned more than $100,000 with overtime.
- He was fired by WYPSEK and MULLIGAN, both of whom are white and named defendants in the lawsuit.
- The defendants claimed they fired the plaintiff because he “bullied” a co-worker, who is white and was employed for only 3 years at the time.
- Plaintiff alleged that in the morning of June 28, 2019, he went to the refrigerator located in the company’s cafeteria to get his home-made tea. His co-worker, apparently noticing the unusual appearance of the home-made tea, jokingly asked the plaintiff “is that drugs. Plaintiff jokingly responded, “No [ ] , it’s not drugs… “shut the fuck up… go take your crack.” The co-worker then responded, “if I was on crack, I would get a gun and kill everyone.”
- Plaintiff’s co-worker is a white male, who had been employed at Corbion for only 3 years at the time of plaintiff’s termination.
- Plaintiff alleges that he was engaging in a friendly banter with the co-worker, which he and the co-worker had done previously. However, for reasons unknown to the plaintiff, the co-worker filed a complaint with Corbion’s Human Resources (HR) Department regarding the above exchange.
- The HRM held a meeting with the plaintiff. During that meeting, HRM asked plaintiff bluntly and directly: “Did you say, ‘shut the fuck up to [the co-worker] and go take your crack’”? Plaintiff, in a state of disbelief at the fact that his co-worker would even file such a complaint, alleged that his immediate reaction was “no, it’s not what you think” and then explained to the HMR the exchange between him and his co-worker, and that both he and his co-worker were simply joking around with each other.
- The HRM then interrogated several of plaintiff’s co-workers who were also present in the cafeteria area and heard the conversation between plaintiff and his co-worker. The co-workers confirmed to the HRM that plaintiff said “Shut the fuck up to… Go take your crack,’ and that the co-worker responded by was that if he were on crack, he would get a gun and kill everyone.
- The White co-worker then admitted that he stated that “if I was on crack, I would get a gun and kill everyone.” Plaintiff alleges that the HRM said to his white co-worker: “Thank you for being honest with me.”
- Plaintiff alleges that the HRM told him that there would be “consequences” for his workplace banter with his co-worker, but the HRM did not say if there would be similar “consequences” for the white co-worker who stated that if he was on crack, he “would get a gun and kill everyone , but instead the HMR praised his co-worker for “being honest.”
- Plaintiff alleges that three (3) days later, the HRM and Corbion’s Operations Manager (who was also named defendant in the case) called him at home and told him that he was fired for “bullying” his co-worker.
- Plaintiff alleges that he was discriminated against by the defendants as they did not similarly discipline his white co-worker, for asking plaintiff if his tea was “drugs,” and stating that if he was on crack, he would “take and gun and shoot everyone,” a threat to commit workplace violence or worse (kill employees) but fired the plaintiff, a Guyanese Indian employee of 20 years, for jokingly stating to his co-worker, “go take your crack.”
- Plaintiff also allege that defendant did not discipline the white co-worker who wrote the following on a bulletin board in the company refrigerator in the cafeteria:
Keys to CORBION Success
1. Look Busy!
2. Sound Important!
3. Baffle with Bullshit!
4. Fuck Bitches > Get More
- Plaintiff further alleges that 93 former co-workers signed a petition that plaintiff’s termination was harsh and excessive, and that plaintiff should have been suspended, rather than terminated. Plaintiff alleged that defendants received the petition but ignored it.
- Plaintiff alleges that defendants have a history of treating White employees more favorably than non-White employees in failing to discipline them, or impose less discipline for comparatively serious conducts, as follows:
- A Hispanic worker was suspended for 1 day for calling a white worker “fat” but failed to discipline the white worker who called the Hispanic worker “stupid.”
- A white female worker was not disciplined for stating to a Hispanic worker: “This is America… speak English.”
- A white male worker made similar statements to the Hispanic employee that she should speaking English at the workplace but was not disciplined.
- An African American female employee, a Hispanic female employee, and another female employee complained that a white senior engineer sexually harassed them, but the defendants failed to discipline the engineer
Generally, a private employer is free to hire and fire anyone at will, with or without reason. However, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), an employer cannot discriminate against any employee in the terms and conditions of that employee’s employment including hiring, promotion, discipline, etc. For instance, it may be illegal discrimination for an employer to fire a non-white employee for violating the employer’s rules of conduct, while not imposing, or imposing less, discipline for similar or more egregious conduct committed by a white employee.
Kindly contact us at 201-222-0123 or [email protected] is you have any information relevant to this case, or if you are victim of workplace discrimination or harassment.