November 3, 2009
Google, an organization that received top marks in 2009 for respecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, is being sued by James Bara, a Georgia-based former employee for sexual and religious discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act.
In his court filing, Bara, a practicing Wiccan, claims that a manager in Google's Atlanta office, Pam Sohn, made numerous jokes about the sexual orientation of a female transgendered employee who joined the company in July 2008. "I informed Ms. Sohn the remarks were inappropriate and she stopped making them," he says in his discrimination complaint. "Shortly thereafter, Ms. Sohn began making inappropriate comments about my religion." Bara's complaint then describes a series of escalating human resources complaints and alleged workplace retaliation. He charges that he began being treated differently in the office and was required to be in the office when female workers were not. He claims he and other male workers were not allowed to work from home whereas female workers were granted that privilege. And he claims he was subject to increased data center participation and report requirements. The complaint alleges that Sohn referred to a meeting with him as a "witch trial," a term Bara took as a reference to his Wiccan beliefs. The complaint states that despite receiving four promotions, pay raises, and positive managerial reviews in his almost three-year tenure with Google, Bara was terminated in "an obvious, transparent, and classic case of retaliation." A Google spokesperson said, "After a thorough investigation, we have no reason to believe James Bara was discriminated against or treated unfairly, and we'll defend ourselves vigorously against these charges. Google values a diverse and respectful workforce and does not tolerate discrimination." Story Updated: Amended Google comment to reflect updated statement.
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