A former BMG marketing rep is expected to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against Sony BMG Music this week in a New York federal court for wrongfully terminating her after the 2004 merger of Sony and BMG.
The suit follows the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's finding
last fall that Tamieka Blair was "a victim of race discrimination." An EEOC investigation revealed that 42% of African American employees and no Caucasian employees of the sales enterprise unit were involuntarily terminated after the merger.
Like many other corporations expecting layoffs, Sony and BMG in 2004 offered their employees a voluntary separation package that would give them enhanced benefits if they elected to accept it before layoffs related to the merger were announced. Employees had to make a decision to accept or reject the package before the announcement.
Blair believed that her field marketing position in the BMG sales unit was secure and worried that accepting the package might signal that she wanted to leave, the EEOC determination letter states. Prior to the merger, the BMG unit employed 16 individuals: 8 Caucasians, 1 Asian American and 7 African Americans in various offices. The letter does not state how many African Americans were employed in the Sony sales unit.
Of the African Americans, three accepted the package, three were laid off after rejecting the package, and the remaining BMG individual (a mail clerk) and two Sony employees continued working for Sony BMG in that unit, the letter states.
After an investigation, the EEOC concluded that Sony BMG "failed to provide a verifiable explanation for the overwhelmingly negative impact on black BMG employees, that is, that 42% of blacks and no whites were involuntarily terminated," the letter states. Sony BMG officials told the EEOC that they "sought to retain the 'best players,' but there was no documented procedure
for determining who the best players were," the letter states.
Blair's attorney, Mitchell Carlinsky, tells Billboard.biz that Blair lost her benefits and has been unable to be "gainfully employed" since then, only working "on and off." The suit seeks payment of Blair's former $30,000-per-year salary, $10,000-per-year benefits plus an unspecified amount of punitive damages. The complaint was mailed today (Jan. 8) to the U.S. District Court in Islip, N.Y., for filing, Carlinsky says.
There do not appear to be any related claims by other Sony BMG individuals
pending with the EEOC at this time. The EEOC determination is a legally-required prerequisite to filing a lawsuit for discrimination under federal law. While the EEOC worked with the parties after the determination to try resolving the matter, no settlement was reached.
Sony BMG declined to comment.