Melphine Evans is suing BP Products North America, her former BP West Coast Products office in La Palma, California and nine individuals for race and gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination.
Evans joined BP in 2001 and worked in several leadership positions and was sent to the La Palma facility’s finance office in 2008.
Evans alleges in Orange County Superior Court that she was fired and replaced by a younger white man after being warned about her attire which occasionally consisted of dashikis and braided hair.
“You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles (‘Dashikis,’ ‘twists,’ ‘braids/cornrows’),” the former CFO claims she was told by superiors, according to her complaint.
“On one occasion, a BP representative went so far as to ask Ms. Evans ‘if she understood that wearing a “dashiki” to work makes her colleagues feel uncomfortable?'” continues the complaint. “If you insist on wearing ethnic clothing/hairstyles, you should only do so during ‘culture day,’ black history month or special diversity events/days. … ‘If you are going to wear ethnic clothing, you should alert people in advance that you will be wearing something ethnic.'”
A spokesman for BP stated personnel issues could not be discussed.
“Generally, BP does not publicly discuss personnel issues,” BP spokesman Scott Dean told Courthouse News Service. “However, BP treats all employees fairly. BP disagrees with the claims and will vigorously defend the suit.”
Interestingly enough, Dean did mention a previous complaint filed by Evans with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that was dismissed. The agency indicated, “Based upon its investigation, DFEH is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes a violation of the statute.”
But Evans essentially counters in her suit that her employer made up “bullying and overly aggressive behavior” complaints used to fire her to cover up “racist and sexist comments and actions and … hostile and discriminatory treatment that was inconsistent with her similarly situated white counterparts at BP.”
The suit quotes a performance feedback review that allegedly stated, “Melphine is a people person. She engages her entire organization and is sincere in her desire to ensure all are valued and heard.”