AG Grewal, DCR Issue Two Findings of Probable Cause in Case of Alleged Employment Discrimination Based on Race, Age
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By Adam Rizvi, TRENTON, NJ. TIO: – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has issued two Findings of Probable Cause (FPC) in the case of Claudia Robinson, a Black female project manager who alleges that she was discriminated against on the basis of race and age by two different New Jersey companies — the consulting firm that employs her, and one of the firm’s corporate clients. As per the official press release from the office of AG.
DCR issued one of the two FPCs against Robinson’s employer, Genpact Pharmalink Global Regulatory Affairs of Short Hills, New Jersey, and issued the other against Bridgewater-based Sanofi U.S. Services, which manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products.
Robinson, age 35, alleged she was discriminated against at Sanofi’s Bridgewater facility after being assigned to work there as a project manager by her employer, Genpact. In a separate complaint against Genpact, Robinson alleged that Genpact “aided and abetted” Sanofi is unlawfully discriminating against her.
Today’s two FPCs mean that, based on a preliminary investigation, DCR has found sufficient evidence to credit Robinson’s allegations and to move her two complaints forward to a public hearing or a lawsuit in court.
Specifically, Robinson claimed that Genpact granted Sanofi’s request to remove her from the project manager job in Bridgewater because two white female Sanofi managers were opposed to working with a young, successful Black woman.
She also alleged that Genpact unlawfully retaliated against her by granting Sanofi’s request for her removal, and subsequently reassigning her to a lower-profile project manager role with a different Genpact client, after she complained to top company executives and human resource personnel about the hostile work environment she was facing at Sanofi.
“There is no room for racism or ageism in the workplace,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We expect all employees to demonstrate respect for the rights and dignity of their co-workers, and we expect employers to take allegations of discrimination on the job seriously. That certainly means employers cannot retaliate against those who report racist conduct, ageism, or any form of discrimination. Taking such allegations seriously is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the law, and we will hold violators accountable.”
“The allegations in this complaint speak to a broader problem in today’s workplace,” said DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “Black people are routinely subjected to micro-aggressions, enhanced scrutiny, and even harassment at work from people who may not be intentionally racist but are simply more ‘comfortable’ with those who they perceive to be more ‘like them.’ Workplaces must invest resources to create an anti-racist culture that raises up diverse experiences and perspectives and treats all employees with dignity and respect.”
During an approximately eight-month period between August 2017 and May 2018, Robinson was assigned by her employer to serve as a project manager overseeing a Product Quality Complaints (PQC) initiative that Sanofi had retained Genpact to handle. In assuming the Sanofi project manager role, Robinson replaced a middle-aged white female who had resigned.
Robinson told DCR that two key Sanofi managers – both white women in their 50s – misrepresented her job performance to Genpact in an effort to undermine her since they did not want to work with a young, Black woman. According to Robinson’s complaint, the two white women also refused to communicate with her about important issues and excluded her from e-mail chains with other Genpact team members about information to which a project manager would otherwise be privy.
One witness told DCR that she overheard one of the two women refer to Robinson as a “black bitch.” The witness also stated that it was apparent from the outset that both women did not like Robinson, and that race was “absolutely” a factor in the way both women treated Robinson.
Another witness told DCR that she believes Sanofi management, including both of the women, did not expect Robinson to be intelligent and capable of being a project manager because she is young and Black. The witness also stated that Sanofi management showed Robinson’s predecessor and replacement, both of whom are white, more respect and deference than they showed Robinson, despite the fact that Robinson’s work product equaled theirs.
Another witness told DCR that she knew Robinson would not do well at Sanofi because Sanofi management scrutinizes Black employees more than non-Black employees and has a negative attitude towards younger managers. Another witness told DCR that she believed the issues between Robinson and Sanofi management stemmed from the fact that Robinson was “different” from them.
Specifically, the witness stated that both white women were used to working with people who looked and spoke as they did. Finally, another witness told DCR that it was “obvious” that Robinson’s race and age were factors in the way both women at Sanofi treated her. Specifically, the witness stated that both women did not like that a “smart, sharp, young, Black woman was in their midst and on the same level as them.”
In May 2018, Genpact removed Robinson from the Sanofi QPC project manager post at Sanofi’s request and reassigned her to handle a less challenging role for another client. Regarding her complaint against Genpact, Robinson told DCR that she advised three high-level Genpact managers throughout spring 2018 that she was enduring a hostile work environment at Sanofi because of race and age. She stated that Genpact did not support her or make any good faith effort to investigate her claims of harassment.
In one March 5, 2018 e-mail, Robinson wrote to a Genpact executive to whom she reported that “two specific members of the Client Management Team (at Sanofi) gravely concern me,” and described them as “unprofessional, undermining, divisive, prejudice and racist.” (A Genpact human resources manager told DCR Robinson did mention feeling disrespected at Sanofi because of her age but claimed she never raised race as an issue.)
In finding probable cause against Genpact, DCR found sufficient evidence to support a “reasonable suspicion that, despite explicit complaints to three high-level employees, (Genpact) took no action to investigate or remedy the hostile work environment.” During DCR’s investigation into the two complaints, Robinson filed a second complaint against Genpact, claiming, among other things, that Genpact terminated her employment in April 2020 in retaliation for filing complaints with DCR. DCR’s investigation of that matter is ongoing.
A Finding of Probable Cause does not resolve a civil rights complaint. Rather, it means the State has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated. Investigator Justin Hoffer and Legal Specialist Carlos Bellido handled the Sanofi and Genpact matters on behalf of DCR.
DCR is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (e.g., places open to the public like schools, businesses, hospitals, etc.) by enforcing the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act.
Compiled and Curated By Alizah Rizvi
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