Activists Allege Panasonic Is Racially Biased

NJ.com — Tuesday, March 31, 2015

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

NEWARK — About 15 activists rallied in front of Panasonic Corporation of North America's offices in Newark this evening in protest of what they are calling the corporation's discriminatory practices.

The activists chanted "No justice, No peace" and "What do we want? Jobs."

The rally, organized by New Jersey Citizen Action and other groups, supports a lawsuit filed two years ago from three African American women who allege they faced discriminatory employment practices.

"We don't want to give tax breaks to companies that discriminate. That's really the bottom line," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. "It shouldn't be allowed."

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority awarded the company a $102.4 million tax subsidy in 2011 to move its headquarters from Secaucus to Newark, according to New Jersey Citizen Action.

Panasonic spokesman Jim Reilly said in a statement the allegations were unfounded.

"Panasonic has policies in place that prohibit any discriminatory employment practices," he said in a statement. "We regret the inconvenience this unwarranted demonstration has meant for our staff, our neighbors and others who are ending their workday, many of whom are trying to get home to their families."

In 2013, Glorina Williams Cruz, Marilyn Joseph and Sandra Karriem filed a lawsuit in superior court of New Jersey, alleging they were the victims of race and sex discrimination.

The company is structured to include "senior executives," which include the vice president level and above. Meanwhile, regular "executives" include the director level and above, the lawsuit says.

Of the 119 executives only 13 were women including the three plaintiffs, according to a 2014 amended version of the suit.

The three plaintiffs were the only African Americans on the entire executive team, according to the lawsuit.

The company had not named a female board member in its 95-year history until February of 2013, the lawsuit says.

"The human resource system was and is compromised and that Defendant manipulates the system to favor 'the good old boys network' rather than engaging in a transparent selection process for employment opportunities that is inclusive of (non-Asian) minority and female employees," the lawsuit said.

Cruz, the company's former director of Equal Employment Opportunity, alleges that she was passed over for a promotion to be Vice President of Human Resources in favor of a less qualified white male.

Cruz said she had been told she would get the role and had been formally identified as someone with "high potential," the lawsuit says.

But she was passed over for the role after she complained about the disparate treatment of minorities and women at the company, the lawsuit alleges.

"We want to put an end to discrimination, especially at Panasonic," Cruz said in an interview.

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