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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Executive claims wrongful discharge on racial grounds

A former British Petroleum executive based in California has filed suit against the oil giant, claiming that she was fired following a series of insensitive and racist remarks made by colleagues. The former chief financial officer said that her wrongful termination after almost a decade with BP was due to her engaging in African-American personal style expressions such as braiding her hair and wearing African-influenced blouses. She maintained in the lawsuit that she was told she could wear such hairstyles and clothing only during the company's Culture Day or during Black History Month, among other race-based commentary.

The complaint stated that when the former executive reported the alleged race and gender discrimination, she was told by BP management that she was the one causing the problem. Managers then explained to her that her wearing ethnic clothing and hairstyles made her colleagues uncomfortable and asked if she could understand that. In addition to wearing such styles only on specified diversity days, she was told that she should give advance notice to her colleagues if she planned to wear ethnic attire.

A company spokesman noted that the former executive had a discrimination complaint filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing dismissed in 2012, a year before this new lawsuit was filed. The agency had indicated at that time that it was unable to see in the information it had been provided that there was an actual violation of any labor statute.

Wrongful discharge is an action that can be fought in court. Such wrongful termination may be an act of retaliation for reporting fraud or refusing to commit illegal acts as instructed by an employer.

Source: Courthouse News, "BP Accused of Racism by Fired Top Executive", Jamie Ross, December 05, 2013

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