An African-American feels he has a professional obligation to raise concerns. Management responds by taking away his work and terminating him

Case #  D-202-DV-2017-01533

Mr. Ochieno was hired in 2015 as a Principal Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. He was the only African-American in his organization. Ochieno states that his performance was good. At some point, he had concerns and raised them to management. The filed complaint doesn’t state what they were.  They could be classified or just not relevant to the case.

“According to the policies at Sandia, Ochieno had a duty to report the complaints that he had.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Ochieno probably hadn’t learned yet about the Sandia culture of retaliation following complaints. Open your mouth and there will be consequences. This is a hard lesson to learn for many of us. You are hired and cleared not only on your skills but also on your good character and ability to hold a clearance. Mr. Ochieno had the credentials, and a background check would certainly have revealed he had the good character too.

It was only after Ochieno raised his concern that management attacked his performance. It appears there was nothing in writing about poor performance prior to the concerns he raised. Mr. Ochieno states that his managers removed his work and deleted some of his work files. A large part of the complaint points out that Sandia has written policies for how to deal with poor performance, but they didn’t follow them. They just terminated him. 

He filed a complaint with the EEOC and eventually received a right to sue letter. He wasn’t looking for a lot of money. He sued for less than $25K plus attorney’s fees, costs and any punitive damages that might be awarded. He wasn’t looking for big bucks, but he believed his termination to be racially motivated and wanted to speak out and let Sandia know that isn’t acceptable.

Unfortunately, we know this kind of nonsense is still going on at the labs. Read here about another recent case of racism. A commonality emerging across employee lawsuits against Sandia Labs is that there is not much room for you at Sandia if you’re of color, older, disabled, a woman or you dare to raise concerns. I wonder if Sandia would like to keep it white, male and young despite its diversity programs and diversity trees.

It’s also interesting to consider the timeline. Mr. Ochieno was hiring in 2015. By 2017 he had filed a racial discrimination lawsuit. There aren’t a lot of details in this case, but you have to wonder why Sandia managers are not more skilled in managing. A skillful manager will help new employees succeed in their role, not push them out the door. The sad end to Mr. Ochieno’s employment speaks loudly to the poor management skills at Sandia Labs.

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