$1.8 Million Award At Bias TrialOct 13, 2004 | CONTRA COSTA TIMES
An Alameda County jury last week awarded more than $1.8 million to a Filipina employee who sued Sybase Inc. for racial discrimination.
Marietta Harvey was fired in February 2003 after working for the Dublin-based high-tech company as a human resources director for five years, earning a salary as high as $185,000.
The 40-year-old Livermore resident alleges she then sought two lower-level jobs at Sybase but was passed over in favor of two less qualified white men after Sybase CEO John Chen reportedly repeated another executive's comment that the human resources department had too many Asian American employees and "looked like an airport."
Sybase spokeswoman Leslie Nakajima strenuously denied that Chen made the comments. "Sybase has a long history of being an ethical company, an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and has been voted many times as one of the best places to work in several of our key geographic locations," Nakajima said in an e-mailed statement.
Nakajima declined to say if Sybase would appeal the verdict but said the company plans to "pursue the next legal steps in the process."
"We disagree with the jury verdict," she said. "We believe that in the fullness of time, these charges will be demonstrated to be untrue and the case without merit."
In court papers, Sybase alleged that the company fired Harvey who in the past had received kudos from the company, including bonus stock options and an all expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for poor job performance and lying.
The jury award includes $1.3 million in lost wages and emotional distress as well as $500,000 in punitive damages. Pieter Van der Vorst, Sybase's chief financial officer, testified that the company planned to respond to the verdict by laying off employees to maintain the company's cash assets, according to Adams Nye Sinunu Bruni Becht, the law firm representing Harvey.
Van der Vorst could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Harvey, who cried when the verdict was read, said that she felt "very good" about it. "It was very, very emotional for me," she said.
Now Harvey says she hopes to get her career back on track. She is looking for a job in the technology industry and has two prospects lined up.
"It's been a long road for me," she said. "My life was kind of put on hold for a while. Now I can put this behind me and move forward."