Recently, a jury in the State of New Jersey found a company, Our House, Inc. liable for discrimination based on National Origin. Joy Ebuzor-Onayemi v. Our House, Inc. Et. Al. The Plaintiff, Joy Ebuzor-Onayemi, was represented by Sylvia I. Onyejekwe, Esq. of Onyejekwe & Associates, LLP, who is also a graduate of Howard University School of Law. Joy Ebuzor-Onayemi sued her former employer for wrongful termination and harassment based on her Nigerian national heritage. Ms. Ebuzor-Onayemi stated that she was repeatedly subjected to harassment because she was from Nigeria. The harassment was from her supervisors and executives of Our House, Inc. Ms. Ebuzor-Onayemi attempted to complain about the repeated discriminatory conduct but was unsuccessful. She was eventually fired after speaking out about the widespread discrimination targeted at people of Nigerian descent. After a three week trial, a jury agreed that Ms. Ebuzor-Onayemi was subjected to harassment based on her national origin. Four Nigerians and former employees of Our House, Inc. testified on behalf of Ms. Ebuzor-Onayemi and supported the claim that discrimination had occurred. The jury awarded damages to Ms. Ebuzor-Onayemi.
Ms. Onyejekwe stated: “There is no place for discrimination in any civilized society. Discrimination is an irrational concept and it is based on fear of anything different. People need to examine their own insecurities because those insecurities are what drive people to act illogically. Justice will always trump injustice – while justice may take time, it will always prevail. I hope this case sends a clear message to those companies and corporations that wish to discriminate – there is a price for that type of conduct!”
Working with individuals from foreign countries is like working with your next door neighbor. In the state of New Jersey, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual, in the workplace, simple because they are different than you. If you are an employer that hires a diverse population of people, make sure you have policies in place to protect against discrimination. Take complaints about discrimination seriously and punish those who engage in discriminatory conduct. Try to implement culture sensitivity courses to make sure that your employees understand diverse groups of people. Failing to act or failing to implement programs and policies that protect against lawsuits.