Isle racial insult suit ends with settlement
A Taiwanese woman says she was derided while working at an Ala Moana shoe store
Luxury shoe purveyor Bally North America Inc. has agreed to pay $200,000 to a former employee of its store in Ala Moana Center to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed on the worker's behalf by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In settling the suit, Bally denied wrongdoing but agreed to institute training for all employees, adopt a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and pay $200,000 to Yolanda Wang, a former manager from Taiwan who the EEOC alleged had been wrongly fired after suffering repeated racial and ethnic insults.
Executives at Bally's North American headquarters in New York did not respond to a request for comment. Tracey Levy, an attorney for Bally in New York, was not available for comment. Wang, who is now working for another retailer at Ala Moana, declined to comment when asked about her experience at Bally.
The EEOC's charge against Bally springs from actions alleged to have taken place beginning around September 2001.
According to the EEOC, Wang's problems began after her superiors at Bally's accused her of racial bias. After Wang protested and asked the company to conduct an inquiry to clear her name, the EEOC alleged, the company declined to take action, and Wang became the subject of ethnic and racial hostility.
According to the agency, a Caucasian supervisor derided Wang's ethnicity, calling her a "sneaky little Chinese woman" and saying she ran the fancy boutique like a "little Chinese grocery store." The supervisor also allegedly raised negative stereotypes by deriding Wang's English writing and saying Wang should be able to work more than 70 hours per week because she was "young and Chinese."
Tim Riera, director of the EEOC's Honolulu office, commended Bally for taking quick and decisive action to settle the complaint and implement training programs.
The EEOC declined to reveal the name of the supervisor; Riera said he did not know whether she was still employed by Bally.
"This case highlights the importance for employers to promptly investigate all complaints of discrimination -- it's the best way to send a consistent message to your employees that your company is committed to a fair and discrimination-free workplace," he said.