Sunoco hit with wrongful termination complaint

Jon Campisi Nov. 21, 2011, 6:40am

A Norristown, Pa. man who claims he was discriminated against and subsequently wrongfully terminated from his job at an area gas station is suing his former employer in federal court.

Philadelphia attorney Robert P. Maizel filed the civil rights claim Nov. 17 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Harinder Singh.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are the Sunoco station at 1735 Market St. in Philadelphia, and Singh’s former supervisor, Steven Jones.

Through his complaint, Singh, who was first hired at the Sunoco station in the summer of 2004 as a store clerk, and was later promoted to store manager and then certified training manager, claims that he was fired after returning to work from a trip to India with his dying mother.

The reason Singh was given for his termination, the suit claims, was vague, with the area manager who delivered the news telling Singh the firing had something to do with payroll, although he wasn’t sure what specifically had led to the June 2010 termination.

The lawsuit claims that during the course of Singh’s employment, he was subjected to discrimination based on his national origin and race.

Singh, who is Indian, claims in his lawsuit that he was asked by a supervisor not to hire job applicants who were Indian or otherwise had dark skin. This was after Singh had been promoted to a position that gave him the ability to hire and fire.

The supervisor, identified as defendant Jones, told Singh that if Singh did hire anyone with Indian ancestry or those who were African American, Singh himself would be fired.

“In spite of Jones’ warnings, Singh hired individuals who were suitable for the position, regardless of their race or skin color,” the lawsuit states.

After his mother became terminally ill in the spring of 2010, the suit states, Singh asked Jones if he could use his earned three weeks of vacation time to fly his mother out to India to be with her family prior to her death.

Jones only allowed Singh to take one week’s vacation, and allegedly made a comment about the mother’s impending death being “no big deal,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit claims that this was yet another example of Singh being discriminated against because of his race.

Singh left for India on June 5, 2010, and returned on June 15, 2010.

The lawsuit claims that about five days prior to Singh’s return, Jones began to pressure other employees to say that Singh made them work “off the clock.”

It was when Singh returned to work on June 15 of that year that Singh was told he was terminated for vague reasons.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the federal Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Singh seeks back pay and front pay, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, equitable relief such as job reinstatement, retroactive relief such as seniority and entitlement, injunctive relief barring future discriminatory practices on the part of the defendants, and attorney’s fees and related costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-07176-SD.

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