Best Buy hit with federal discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit

A Southeastern Pennsylvania man has filed a federal job discrimination lawsuit against Best Buy, alleging his firing in the spring of 2010 was in retaliation for him complaining about alleged discrimination at the workplace.

Philadelphia lawyer Samuel A. Dion and Media, Pa. attorney Richard B. Bateman, Jr., filed the civil action Nov. 8 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Phillip R. Berger of Brookhaven, Pa.

According to the complaint, Berger was hired as an in-store computer technician at the Best Buy store at 1130 Easton Road in Willow Grove, Pa. on August 8, 2002. He was promoted two years later.

In the winter of 2009, a man identified as Tyler El became Berger’s new supervisor. Berger is a white, Jewish male while Tyler El is a black, non-Jewish man, the suit states.

Prior to El becoming Berger’s supervisor, the suit claims, the plaintiff was never counseled or written up by his superiors for any workplace violations. On the contrary, Berger received above average to excellent performance reviews by his bosses.

Under El’s supervision, however, Berger noticed that he was being “treated differently” than his non-white/non-Jewish coworkers, the complaint states. Specifically, Berger began to notice that El would frequently question Berger’s productivity, despite the fact that it was “the same or better” than the other employees.

“Plaintiff became concerned that Mr. El’s scrutiny of his work was driven by racial and religious bigotry,” the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the suit states, Berger made a formal complaint to a Best Buy district services manager as well as to the human resources department. The complaint alleged that Berger was being discriminated against because of his race, color and religion.

No subsequent action was taken on Berger’s internal complaint, although El was made aware of the complaint, the lawsuit states.

On March 2, 2010, Berger was terminated by El for purportedly falsifying company time records, the suit claims. Berger denied the allegations.

“Defendant’s proffered reason for plaintiff’s termination was false and was mere pretext to mask the true discriminatory reason for his termination,” the suit states. “The true reason Plaintiff was terminated by defendant was because Plaintiff is White, Jewish and because he made a good faith complaint of race, color and religious discrimination at the workplace.”

Berger’s lawsuit contains counts of retaliation and discrimination. He seeks damages, in an amount to be determined by a jury, for pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, harm to reputation and lost income.

Berger also demands unspecified punitive damages, attorney’s fees, the amount of taxes due on any award and other court relief.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06970-CMR.

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