ITHACA, N.Y. — A former plant manager at Ithaca-based company Porous Materials, Inc., allegedly used racist language, called women “bitches” and retaliated against employees that complained. A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission details numerous incidents of sexism, racism and xenophobia that continued despite complaints to human resources.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, the EEOC alleges that a plant manager at Porous Materials used the “N-word” in front of employees and after seeing a picture of a black employee’s husband said that her husband should work in a cotton field with a rope around his neck. The following day, the plant manager allegedly told her to drink Kool-Aid to calm down.
Though she complained to human resources, nothing happened, the complaint states, and she informed the plant manager she no longer wished to interact with him in a friendly manner. The plant manager complained she was not friendly enough to him and “her face was too ‘mean,’” the complaint states. The woman was eventually fired in retaliation for her repeated complaints about harassment, the EEOC said.
The plant manager also called foreign-born employees “terrorists,” said he was sick of immigrants stealing American jobs, forbade employees from speaking other “f—– languages” because “we’re in America, mother——-“, even while on break, and urged immigrant employees to leave America, the lawsuit states.
In most cases listed in the lawsuit, employees complained to the human resources manager, but no action was taken and harassment continued, according to the lawsuit.
The plant manager, who is not named in the lawsuit, is no longer employed by the company, CEO Krishna Gupta said in a phone call Wednesday.
“I had never heard him say anything, but as soon as I heard, I got rid of him,” Gupta said. “Even the semblance of impropriety is not acceptable.”
The plant manager was put on an unpaid leave of absence while the company looked into the complaint and left on his own accord, he said.
Porous Materials, Inc., “manufactures novel platforms for testing of porous materials” and is headquartered at 20 Dutch Mill Road in Ithaca. There are about 20 employees in Ithaca. They also have regional offices in Germany, India, China and Dubai, the company’s website states.
In addition to the racist and xenophobic statements that created a hostile work environment, the lawsuit states, there were also a number of sexist comments made toward women at Porous Materials.
The plant manager allegedly loudly called women “bitches,” complained about their “PMS’ing” and said women couldn’t perform a man’s job.
The plant manager told a woman “she would have to ‘come over here and sexually harass me’ to be sent home early; made other unwanted sexual advances; said a woman was too ‘fat and disgusting’ to have sex with her husband; and commented on female employees’ ‘buns’ and ‘curves,’” the EEOC said in a news release.
The issues go beyond the plant manager, the EEOC alleges, because the company owner “rather than putting a stop to this, behaved similarly; he called female employers ‘dumb women,’ complained that ‘these women can’t do anything,’ and told a woman she would not be getting a raise because of her sex.”
When asked about the comments, Gupta said the complaint against him is “totally untrue.” He said the only thing that matters at his company is performance regardless of gender.
“I don’t care, I just look for performance. Everything at PMI is performance based,” Gupta said. “Every woman at PMI, they consistently get raises because they are good performers.”
The conduct alleged violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination-including harassment-because of sex, national origin or race, as well as retaliation.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.
Read the full complaint below: