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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 Melphine-Evansdiscrimination, 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.”

 

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  • Shanti

    Hair is one thing but “ethnic clothing” is not appropriate. Wear your ethnic closed on your free time.

    • What is non-ethnic clothing?
      Is it a yamulke and not a kufi or a turban?
      Back in the 90s a friend of mine was asked by white co-workers in the engineering company she worked whether her low cut afro meant she was now radical..she thought it was funny because she had an afro because of a bad perm.
      My point is who defines “ethnic clothing”?
      Last Summer I pointed out to my head of HR, a nice suburban bred white lady that the dress she had on replicated the designs of the dashikis my Mom sported when I was young. She was completely unaware.
      Don’t try to excuse racism it undervalues us. It is obvious from the tone of the past statements to Ms. Evans that the people involved were about something malevolent. They were not attempting to clarify or gain understanding they were throwing shade.

  • DasaniFresh

    You know what?

    This hit home for me because it’s soooo true! I was fired from my job for wearing a short curly weave (which I thought looked more presentable and corporate than my actual afro which was twice as large and not to mention thick, poofy, or otherwised considered kinky and nappy by other races).

    It just goes to show that no matter how high or low your position in the company, being yourself, (nevermind how skillful/useful you are) is still frowned upon. If you do decide to exercise your individuality, you pose a threat to losing your job for not failing to conform.

    So no matter how they word it, “violation of image/dresscode policy” white people are just insensitive and downright spiteful of black culture. It’s truly disgusting andvery sad, considering that it’s the END of 2013.

  • I know this woman and she is amazing! If she says it, it most likely happened as she said.

  • Jen

    … ‘If you are going to wear ethnic clothing, you should alert people in advance that you will be wearing something ethnic.’”

    Are they for real? How should this “alert” work? Should it be done by e-mail? Does BP communications have to approve it, to make sure the wording is professional and non-inflammatory? Does the e-mail have to mention the specific ethnic articles of clothing I plan to wear? How much “advance notice” is required? 48 hours? 24 hours? If I send it out at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, and show up on Thursday morning barefoot, wearing a dashiki and a red, gold, and green tam on my head, does that count as sufficient advance notice?

    Oh, and there is this gem: “If you insist on wearing ethnic clothing/hairstyles, you should only do so during ‘culture day,’ black history month or special diversity events/days.”

    And “casual Fridays”. They forgot to mention casual Fridays. ;-)