Labor lawsuit against Samsung R&D hub alleges exclusion of workers with ‘dark skin’

Labor lawsuit against Samsung R&D hub alleges exclusion of workers with ‘dark skin’
via Google
Michelle De Pacina
By Michelle De Pacina
November 22, 2023
Samsung Research America (SRA) in Silicon Valley, an advanced research and development subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, is facing accusations of violating labor laws.
The lawsuit: In the discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Andrew Mo, a Chinese American former employee of SRA, SRA executives are accused of excluding certain employees based on their skin color from an event.
According to the complaint filed in December 2022, the incident occurred in November 2021 during preparations for a visit by Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong’s. The complaint points to discriminatory behavior by their Korean supervisor and SRA Vice President Kiho Kim, who allegedly stated that individuals with “dark skin” should wait outside.
Alleged retaliation: Under SRA’s anti-harassment policies, employees are to report any suspected discriminatory or harassing behavior. Mo reported the incident to SRA’s Director of Human Resources Sanchita Gupta and SRA CEO/President Wonil Roh, but a week later, Mo claims that this is when the retaliation began. 
Kim announced the reassignment of Mo’s direct report — a Korean director and their team — under his direct supervision. Subsequently, Mo stated that he took an approved three-day paid leave by Kim, but was later informed that HR couldn’t contact him, implying an unauthorized leave. Mo submitted evidence of approved leave but received no response. 
Terminating Mo: On January 19, 2022, Gupta emailed Mo, terminating his employment immediately, citing “role elimination.” Mo alleges wrongful termination, asserting that the role persisted and new staff were recruited after his departure.
SRA tries to settle: SRA sought to settle the lawsuit through arbitration, relying on an arbitration clause in Mo’s employment contract. However, Judge Evette D. Pennypacker denied the motion, deeming the arbitration agreement “unconscionably one-sided.” Mo had previously requested modifications or removal of the arbitration clauses during the hiring process, but Samsung insisted they were non-negotiable. 
“Samsung sought to compel arbitration based on the terms of the employment contract, but the court has shown that it will not simply rubber-stamp applications to compel public proceedings into private arbitration,” Stephen N. Ilg of ILG Legal Office PC said, according to The Korea Daily.
Details: Mo previously worked at Google and Crowdstrike as chief of artificial intelligence research. He is seeking an award of punitive damages, along with attorneys’ fees and costs. 
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