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ExxonMobil To Worker, Allegedly: Ignoring Racial Harassment Won't Make You An "Uncle Tom"

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There’s some pretty severe accusations flying around these days over at ExxonMobil involving racial discrimination.

Carla Briggs, an African-American laboratory trainee working at one of the energy giant’s offices in Beaumont, claims in a federal lawsuit filed in Houston that she has repeatedly been denied promotion and the ability to advance at Exxon and has been verbally harassed because of her race.

Briggs says she has been turned down several times for supervisory positions and training programs, only to have the jobs filled by less experienced, younger, non African-Americans, so she filed a complaint with Exxon’s human resources department, according to the lawsuit. After a month passed and Briggs had not heard a response, she inquired about the investigation and was told to meet with human resources.

After the “unproductive” meeting, according to the lawsuit, a shift superintendent began to “lecture” Briggs, telling her that she “is black and is supposed to take abuse and be harassed.” The superintendent then allegedly told Briggs “that she would not be an ‘Uncle Tom’ if she went back to work in the laboratory, showing … that she had internalized [the] advice.”

Briggs claims that after being told this she became ill, went to the doctor and was placed on medical leave for 12 days.

Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Prem Nair says the company has not yet been served and therefore cannot comment on the lawsuit.

However, in an email to Hairballs, Nair wrote:

ExxonMobil is an equal opportunities employer, and we do not tolerate discriminatory practices. We have comprehensive policies in place that are rigorously enforced, applicable and accessible to our employees. These written policies prohibit discrimination, retaliation or harassment for any reason, including race, gender and age, in any company workplace. “ExxonMobil's comp rehensive policies contain an easily accessible complaint procedure, assurance of confidentiality and protection against retaliation. ExxonMobil denies that Ms. Briggs has been the victim of discrimination or any other unlawful conduct, and we will vigorously defend the lawsuit, if served.

Briggs is suing for racial discrimination and retaliation. She is seeking more that $1 million in total damages.

-- Chris Vogel

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