Asian tech worker working late at night

Silicon Valley Firm Faces $20 Million Lawsuit Over Anti-Asian Discrimination

An Asian former employee of a Silicon Valley tech firm is seeking $20 million in damages after being fired due to the company’s alleged “culture of prejudice against Asians.” He filed a lawsuit that not only calls out workplace discrimination but also highlights the broader issue of Asian Americans being underrepresented in leadership roles within the tech industry.

Lumentum, a San Jose company that manufactures optical and photonic products, is facing allegations of anti-Asian discrimination and wrongful termination. The lawsuit was filed by Andre Wong, a former employee at Lumentum who played a significant role in the firm’s success story.

Wong developed a lucrative product line specializing in 3D sensing and facial recognition technology. His efforts generated more than $1 billion in revenue for the company, according to the lawsuit. After working at Lumentum for more than 20 years, he eventually became vice president of strategic marketing.

Wong claimed he was wrongfully terminated in December 2022 because he “vocally and persistently” spoke up about discrimination against Asian American employees. Despite his accomplishments, Wong faced constant setbacks in his career progression. He was allegedly passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified white managers.

The lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, claimed that Wong “realized that discrimination against Asians in promotions at Lumentum was widespread.” Asian employees were constantly viewed as “worker bees” rather than as “business leaders.” Although over 60 percent of Lumentum’s workforce consisted of Asian employees, fewer than 15 percent of its senior executives were Asian.

The lawsuit provided multiple examples of discriminatory treatment against Asian workers. For example, a white senior manager allegedly did not allow Chinese engineers to speak Mandarin. Wong was also ridiculed for his pronunciation of the word “program” during a meeting with a white senior executive.

Under California law, discriminating against a worker based on their race is unlawful. Racial discrimination can occur across many different aspects of employment, such as hiring practices or promotion opportunities, as in Wong’s lawsuit. It can consist of derogatory remarks or rise to the level of a hostile work environment in which the worker experiences severe or pervasive race-based harassment.

Wong’s case is emblematic of a broader issue that has long plagued the tech industry: the discrepancy between the presence of Asian and Asian American workers in the workforce and their underrepresentation in leadership positions. Workplace discrimination often goes unchecked, with Asian professionals facing systemic biases and challenges in advancing their careers. 

Reports indicate that although companies like Google, Meta, and Salesforce boast substantial percentages of Asian employees, the figures drop significantly when it comes to leadership roles. For example, a 2023 Google diversity report found that while 45 percent of the company’s U.S. workers were of Asian origin, only 32 percent occupied leadership positions.

Around 47 percent of Meta’s workforce consisted of Asian employees, with 29 percent holding leadership positions in 2022. Meanwhile, 27 percent of San Francisco-based Salesforce’s employees were Asian. About 20 percent of its Asian workers had leadership roles.

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a surge in violence against Asian people, exacerbated workplace discrimination faced by Asian Americans. Wong became increasingly vocal about these issues. He co-founded an internal Asian employee resource group at Lumentum. The group sought to tackle the lack of Asian representation while providing mentorship and education to fellow employees.

Soon after forming the group, however, Wong was laid off in December last year. According to the lawsuit, a manager allegedly said that Wong’s discussions about racial discrimination “made white people feel bad.”

Wong is seeking $20 million in damages. If he wins his lawsuit, a “significant portion” of the compensation will be donated to the cause of fighting anti-Asian discrimination.

The lawsuit aims to make an example out of Lumentum and bring about change to the company’s discriminatory practices. The case serves as a powerful reminder that even though the tech industry is a symbol of innovation and progress, it still has a long way to go when it comes to addressing systemic workplace discrimination. 

If you have experienced discrimination at work, reach out to McCormack Law Firm. Our San Francisco employment lawyers are ready to help you hold your employer accountable. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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