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$5.5 mn for Indian fired after objecting to racist remarks

October 30, 2007 14:50 IST

An Indian engineer, who was fired by her company after she complained of her senior's racist conduct, has been awarded $5.5 million (about Rs 22 crore) by a San Francisco federal jury.

The jury found Kiran Pande's former employer Chevron liable for wrongful termination and retaliation and ruled that she be given roughly $3 million (about Rs 12 crore) for past and future economic losses, and $2.5 million (about Rs 10 crore) in punitive damages.

Pande, who is India-born and holds a PhD in petroleum engineering from Stanford University, was fired by Chevron in late 2003 after 15 years with the company. After a three-week trial stemming from incidents that occurred between September 2000 and December 2003, the jury found that Chevron retaliated against Pande after she complained about discrimination and fired her for reasons that violated a public policy. Chevron first hired Pande as a research engineer in 1988.

But in 2001 Pande began to suffer racist remarks and discrimination at the hand of her senior Rex Mitchell, who is now the company's chief compliance officer, according to her complaint, filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

By March 2002, Pande complained to Mitchell's supervisor, James Johnson, about Mitchell's conduct. Johnson did not investigate, Pande said and alleged that she was given the choice of leaving the company or leaving the group or staying for up to 18 months and getting along with Mitchell.

Later she filed a formal complaint against Mitchell with a company ombudsman.