On January 11, 2017, a proposed class action discrimination lawsuit was filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in Detroit, Michigan by the company’s former diversity manager Marlin G. Williams. In her discrimination suit, Ms. Williams alleges that FCA’s employee evaluation process impedes the success of African-American employees at a disproportionate rate. This lawsuit has the potential to affect many African-American managers who are subject to an evaluation process. Class-action status is the designation that can be approved by a federal judge if a plaintiff can prove numerous employees were also harmed in the same manner.
Ms. Williams was promoted to diversity manager in 2015 after working as a talent management consultant for FCA. Ms. Williams’ job function included tracking salary data and trends, as well as spotting disparities. As a diversity manager, Ms. Williams helped improve the representation of minorities, as well as tolerance and inclusion.
According to Ms. Williams’ complaint, in her role as diversity manager she observed that salaried, nonunion African-American employees who were subject to the company’s two-step evaluation process were rated with disproportionately lower scores compared to the non-African-American employees. Through analyzation of the data, Ms. Williams discovered that Caucasian managers were receiving higher compensation and bonuses and more opportunities for promotions.
The employee evaluation process at FCA is a two-step process. An employee is first evaluated by their direct supervisor and then is evaluated by a group of high-level managers. The majority of these managers were Caucasian, according to the complaint.
Ms. Williams reported that FCA’s employee evaluation process had resulted in a disparate impact on salaried, nonunion African-American managers for at least the years 2014 and 2015. The lower scores resulted in less compensation, benefits, promotions, and opportunities for advancement compared to the Caucasian managers.
According to the lawsuit, even if the African-American managers receive excellent reviews from their immediate supervisors, the group of high-level Caucasian managers has the final say over the outcome of the evaluations. Ms. Williams states that despite the company having hundreds of directors, there are only two African-American female directors and approximately only five to seven African-American male directors.
Allegedly, after Ms. Williams reported that the employee evaluation process has negatively impacted African-American employees, she was retaliated against by her FCA colleagues and upper management. She was allegedly accused of not performing her work responsibilities as directed and was placed under investigation for reporting discriminatory acts towards African-Americans. Ms. Williams claims that she was shunned and ostracized by the other employees.
According to the complaint, after feeling surmounting pressure and fear that she was going to lose her job, Ms. Williams gave her two weeks notice on January 2, however her employment was terminated the next day.
Ms. Williams is seeking class-action certification for this matter on behalf of all salaried, nonunion African-American employees who are in a senior management position or below that were subject to a employee evaluation process, and received medium to low job ratings as a result for the years 2014 and 2015. According to Ms. Williams’ attorney, 15 people are ready to join the class-action lawsuit and it is estimated that 800 – 1,000 African American managers may also be eligible to join the suit.
FCA released a statement denying Ms. Williams’ allegations, claiming they lack merit and that the company does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. This case is currently pending.
If you believe you have faced racial discrimination or harassment by your employer or have been wrongfully terminated, contact an experienced New York employment law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at sms@StevenSack.com.