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Genentech employee awarded $250,000 over racial discrimination case

Published on 16/04/19 at 11:00am

A US jury has awarded a former Genentech employee nearly $250,000 after the black worker was fired from the firm after filing a racial-discrimination complaint against his manager.

Timothy Pruitt, 56, was fired from Genentech in 2017 after working at the company’s Vacaville offices for 21 years.

While Pruitt was fired over allegations that he had falsified timecards and stolen half a sandwich, the IT worker claimed the action came in retaliation after he submitted a discrimination complaint against his manager, Steve Graeff.

The long term Genentech employee claimed a co-worker had bought the sandwich for him and that technical issues had in part resulted in a misunderstanding which had led to accusations he had falsified timecards.

Pruitt, who had earned positive performance evaluations for 15 years after being hired as a full time employee in 1998, filed the racial discrimination complaint after receiving a negative review from a former supervisor.

After receiving the negative review, Pruitt sought treatment for mental health issues. A doctor subsequently advised Pruitt to take medical leaves in 2013 and 2016.

The lawsuit alleges that Pruitt was fired “not even three months after he returned from (Family Medical Leave Act).”  

The Jury awarded Pruitt a total of nearly $250,000 - $175,000 in lost wages (1.9 times his salary of $90,000), plus $59,000 for emotional distress and 7% interest on the lost wages.

The verdict comes as an “important vindication for our client, who was walked off the premises after working there for years,” Pruitt’s lawyer Jean Hyams said. “He was banned from returning to the campus. This was a community he had built his life and work around.”

“Genentech conceded at trial that Mr. Pruitt made a good faith, reasonable complaint that his manager was subjecting him to race discrimination… Genentech may talk the talk of diversity and inclusion, but its action in this case sends the message that employees have every reason to fear retaliation if they speak up,” Hyams added.

A Genetech spokesperson said the claims had in the past been “dismissed as unfounded.”

Louis Goss

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