Facebook sued over racial discrimination claims at NC data center

Facebook sued over racial discrimination claims at NC data center

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Two African-American workers at Facebook's data center in Rutherford County have sued the company over allegations of racial harassment and discrimination.

For over three years, the lawsuit claims, Facebook allowed the harassment and discrimination against African-American employees "to infect the working conditions" at the Forest City center.

According to the lawsuit, a former operations manager at the center referred to Facebook's African-American employees as "n-----' and "monkey."

The workers filed their lawsuit in November in San Jose, Calif. Facebook is headquartered in nearby Menlo Park. The case was transferred on Monday to U.S. District Court in Asheville.

According to the lawsuit, one of the former workers, Robert Gary, said the facilities operations manager who promoted him to night shift engineer in 2013 told subordinates that Gary was a "lazy n----- who wants everything handed to him" when Gary inquired about a pay raise.

The facility opened in 2012, and Gary was hired as a maintenance technician at $20.05 an hour.

Facebook later hired several white workers in the same or highly similar positions as Gary's, according to the lawsuit. Although Gary had worked at the center for at least three years, the new workers were paid between $22 and $24 an hour, the lawsuit said.

In the first quarter of 2014, Gary was given "a disproportionately low raise, in spite of being given positive feedback on his performance" by the operations manager and another supervisor, according to the lawsuit filed by San Francisco Bay Area lawyer Sonya Smallets.

His performance reviews in 2013 and the first two quarters of 2014 said he either met or exceeded expectations, the lawsuit said. White employees in similar roles, however, received "far higher raises" in 2013 and 2014, according to the lawsuit. One employee received a $6-an-hour raise while Gary got a $1.67-an-hour raise. That same employee was promoted, while Gary was not, the lawsuit said.

The other plaintiff, Robert Duffy, was hired as assistant facility manager in January 2014 and in six months was promoted to facilities manager.

A fellow employee said in a written statement that he heard the operations manager call Duffy a "n-----" and another African-American worker a "monkey," according to the lawsuit.

Duffy said he, too, was paid less than similarly situated white employees. He also was given "unduly harsh criticisms' in a later job evaluation, the lawsuit said.

Duffy was eventually demoted and told to take a class for new managers, even though he had three years of management experience, the lawsuit said. Duffy left the center in October "due to intolerable working conditions," according to the lawsuit. Gary still works there, earning less than his peers. Their lawsuit seeks at least $25,000 in damages.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company took immediate action by firing the manager who made the racist comments and took no adverse action against Gary and Duffy. The company also provided anti-bias, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training to all data center employees nationwide, she said.

"We would never tolerate any behavior like this," she said."