A tech company based in San Jose, California, is facing a $20 million wrongful-termination lawsuit for allegedly firing an Asian employee due to its “culture of prejudice against Asians.”
The lawsuit: Lumentum Operations, a telecommunications equipment commercial company, fired Andre Wong in December last year for allegedly “vocally and persistently” calling out discrimination against Asian American employees, according to the lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on June 30.
“The damages figures reflect the impairment of Andre’s future expected compensation, how he’s been impacted personally and other matters, including making an example out of Lumentum and its bad behavior,” Attorney Charles Jung said, according to ABC News.
Wong’s resource group: According to Wong, he co-founded the company’s Asian employee resource group when the U.S. saw an increase of anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with other Asian American employees at Lumentum, they discussed the alleged discrimination in the workplace and conducted surveys, highlighting “data which showed the difficulty of Asian Americans to advance within the company.” Although more than 60% of Lumentum’s employees were Asian, less than 15% of its senior executives were Asian.
Alleged racism: According to Wong, the Chinese engineers were allegedly prohibited from speaking Mandarin by a white senior manager. A white senior executive also allegedly “ridiculed [Wong] for his pronunciation of ‘program,’ telling him to enunciate his ‘Rs’” during a meeting.
In a separate meeting, a white senior executive allegedly asked, “Are they steaming rice in that section of the production floor?” when discussing a product failure on a factory floor in China.
Firing Wong: According to the lawsuit, Wong “realized that discrimination against Asians in promotions at Lumentum was widespread,” claiming that “Lumentum had a culture of prejudice against Asians.”
“Asians were held to a higher standard. They were not seen as business leaders. They were seen as the perpetual worker bees,” the lawsuit alleges.
As Wong became more vocal about workplace discrimination, he was reportedly laid off. A manager allegedly said that Wong’s internal presentation on discrimination “made White people feel bad.”
About Wong: Wong, who has a Ph.D. in materials physics, worked at the company for more than 20 years. He became the vice president of strategic marketing, creating a new product line based on 3D scanning and facial-recognition technologies. Wong claims that his work brought the business $1 billion in revenue and “enabled the company to survive, grow and acquire other companies.”
“Wong has been a champion and evangelist for the 3D Sensing business at Lumentum for many years. His leadership and guidance has been instrumental in achieving Lumentum’s leadership in 3D Sensing,” a description of Wong on Lumentum’s website reads.
According to Wong, he plans to donate a “significant portion” to the cause of fighting anti-Asian discrimination if he wins the lawsuit.
“The main reason why I’m doing this lawsuit is to make sure that we can make this donation to the civil rights movement for Asian Americans and to continue to support this effort,” Wong told ABC News.