Fired BP Exec Told to Save Braids and Dashiki for Black History Month

"You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles," the woman was told, according to a lawsuit.

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Melphine Evans

The Women's Conference

A former BP executive has sued her former employer in California’s Orange County Superior Court, saying she was fired by British Petroleum Oil Co. and replaced with a younger white male, after a series of racial complaints, the Courthouse News Service reports. 

Melphine Evans filed the suit against BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America and nine people, seeking damages for race and gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. She had worked for the company for 10 years.

The suit charges that Evans’ supervisors and other management responded to her complaints of race and gender discrimination "by telling her she 'was the problem' " and with a series of insensitive and racist remarks. Remarks included: "You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles ('Dashikis,' 'twists,' 'braids/cornrows'),” the suit says.

In one incident, a BP representative reportedly asked Evans '"f she understood that wearing a 'dashiki' to work makes her colleagues feel uncomfortable?" the suit says. In yet another example she was told, "If you insist on wearing ethnic clothing/hairstyles-you should only do so during 'culture day,' black history month or special diversity events/days,” the suit says.

Evans charges that she was fired to cover for "racist and sexist comments and actions and ... hostile and discriminatory treatment that was inconsistent with her similarly situated white counterparts at BP," Courthouse News says.

BP spokesman Scott Dean told Courthouse News: "Generally, BP does not publicly discuss personnel issues. However, BP treats all employees fairly. BP disagrees with the claims and will vigorously defend the suit."

Evans started working for BP in early 2001 as vice president of North America's Western Region, and was CFO BP West Coast Products in La Palma, Calif., when she was fired, according to her 24-page lawsuit.

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