Barrett & Farahany successfully represented Jerberee Jefferson in a claim alleging retaliatory discharge, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, against Sewon America. Sewon America is an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier and the American subsidiary of Korean company Sewon Precision Industry Co. Under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision, employers are prohibited from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for making discriminatory complaints.
Jefferson, who is African-American and worked in the finance department, had a goal of moving to IT and had taken several computer courses to help her career move in that direction. Upon finding out Sewon had an open IT position, which had been advertised without any minimum requirement for years of IT experience, Jefferson brought her resume to the department. The manager of the IT department told Jefferson he had observed her as a good worker and would transfer her to IT, subject to some testing and approval by the company’s general manager. After a month with no transfer, Jefferson was told upon inquiry that the general manager wanted to instead hire a Korean for the position.
Jefferson complained to HR and was told to brush off the comments. Later the same day, she was given a negative probation evaluation by the manager of the finance department. Seven days later, she was fired with no written or verbal warning, both of which are part of company policy. In fact, in testimony, her finance manager later stated that Jefferson had been performing her job well. Sewon ultimately hired a Korean male for the open IT position.
Initially, a lower court ruled against Jefferson’s claims and granted summary judgment to Sewon. Then in 2018, the 11th Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision. The 11th Circuit held that Sewon’s refusal to transfer Jefferson from the finance department to IT was based on her race and nationality. The 11th Circuit also found circumstantial evidence that Sewon fired Jefferson as retaliation for her filing an HR complaint. Following the 11th Circuit’s reversal of summary judgment in favor of Jefferson’s claim, Ms. Jefferson was able to vindicate her rights.
As lawyers seeking justice for workers, we at Barrett & Farahany have represented employees in a number of foreign defendant cases. When U.S.-controlled subsidiaries and divisions of foreign companies work in this country, they must follow the same employment and discrimination laws as American companies. We are happy to answer any questions you have about the laws and to discuss your rights with you. Contact us to speak to one of our attorneys.