NEW YORK — Estée Lauder Corp. has been sued by three former employees seeking $70 million in damages over allegations of racial and disability-related discrimination at the cosmetics firm’s facility in Melville, N.Y.
The lawsuit was filed on June 30, but court papers were not immediately available.
The plaintiffs who filed the complaint were Daniel Russo, Yolanda Smith and Wayne Rogers. Smith and Rogers are African-Americans. Russo, who has stage four cancer, alleged violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In total the lawsuit alleged seven causes of action, seeking a minimum of $10 million on each count for actual, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as costs and attorney’s fees.
Lauder declined to comment on the specifics of the matter because it is in litigation, but said in a statement, “We look forward to resolution of this lawsuit through proper legal channels.
“We are proud of our long history as a dedicated employer and committed corporate citizen in the Long Island community,” the statement noted.
Also named as defendants were E-L Management Corp. and Estée Lauder Cosmetics Ltd., as well as nine individuals employed at Lauder’s Melville site.
Claiming discrimination based on his cancer, Russo said as far back as 1998, he was not given the opportunity to bid for a position that opened in his department, nor was the job listed even though Lauder’s policy was to post all positions. He alleged that he was passed over again for certain job openings in subsequent years.
Smith and Rogers claimed they were forced to “continually work in a racially, sexually hostile and offensive work environment.” According to the court document, they alleged that non-African-Americans were given certain opportunities that were denied to them, including the right to eat at their desks and on-the-job training.
Rogers charged he was told that there were no opportunities within his department, and that it was suggested that he transfer to another department to be happier. The lawsuit further said that a “position became available almost immediately after” he transferred to a new department. As for Smith, she alleged that she was told by the human resources department to “ignore” allegedly discriminatory remarks and that it “could also be that you are being a little too sensitive.”The lawsuit alleges that all three “reported numerous incidents of discrimination, including but not limited to, racial statements and comments, pornographic e-mails and pictures being left around the office, and being passed up for new positions.”
CLOSE CALL LETTER
The minority shareholders of Wella AG aren’t going quietly. Close Brothers Corporate Finance Ltd., which represents some of Wella’s minority shareholders, said it had, in a letter to Procter & Gamble Co.’s chairman and chief executive A.G. Lafley, called for Wella to continue to operate as an independent entity. The letter asked for public assurances that P&G and Wella would, among other actions: appoint an independent auditor; not add the weight of any additional senior management positions at P&G to the current duties of Wella’s chairman, Heiner Guertler; maintain separate management and accounting functions for Wella; continue to list the firm on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange; maintain Wella’s current dividend policy; and appoint an independent director to the Wella supervisory board as one of the six shareholder representatives. Earlier this year, P&G signed an agreement to acquire most of the Wella voting shares in a deal with the majority shareholders and then, through a series of tender offers, raised its stake to 79.2 percent of the firm’s overall registered share capital, short of the 95 percent required by German law for delisting.
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