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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Discrimination Suit Filed vs. Home Depot by Carrie Mason-Draffen

Six black women, mostly from Long Island and Queens, filed a $12-million lawsuit against Home Depot Inc. yesterday, alleging racial and gender discrimination and harassment at the home-improvement chain.

The women worked in human resources at various Home Depot stores, many on the Island and in Queens. Among the wide-ranging allegations in their federal complaint, the women contend that they earned thousands of dollars less than their white and black male counterparts. Related to that, the women said some managers even altered racial classifications in the company's annual federal filings on racial diversity to obscure pay differences.

The women also said that they were rebuffed by upper management after they complained about managers who allegedly made discriminatory and sexually explicit remarks.

Carl Place-based Leeds, Morelli & Brown, which is representing the plaintiffs, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

Atlanta-based Home Depot said in a statement yesterday that it was unable to respond because it hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit, but it stressed that it is "an equal opportunity employer and has a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination."

Brooklyn resident LaTanya Martin-Avery, who worked for Home Depot from 2000 to last year, was one of several associate development supervisors misclassified as white, according to the complaint. However, when she sought a promotion in 2001 while working in the Astoria store, the classification was changed back to "black," and she was ordered to have her picture taken. Those moves alerted hiring managers to her race, Martin-Avery, 38, said.

She got the job of human-resource manager but complained because her black male and white female counterparts with less experience and education allegedly earned $10,000 more annually than the salary she was offered. Regional executives told her that "if I didn't accept, there was no place for me in the company," she said yesterday.

Glenor Cyrus, 33, who lives in Hempstead and worked for Home Depot from 2000 to 2002, also was allegedly misclassified as white. And Cyrus, who worked in the Valley Stream store, lost out on a promotion when the hiring managers found out she was black and pregnant, the complaint states.

Carolyn Saunders, 41, who worked for the retailer from 2000 to her termination last year, said that a manager in Elmont used an ethnic slur when complaining about a black worker who had requested a few days off to handle family matters.

According to the complaint, when Cyrus, who worked at the Valley Stream store, said she was reviewing a report an employee submitted about a white supervisor's racist remarks, she said the supervisor grabbed the report and tore it up. She said she complained but no action was taken. She also said nothing happened when she complained about a new assistant manager in 2001 who constantly made sexually explicit remarks.

The suit also includes plaintiffs June DeBourgh and Gayna Samuel, both of Jamaica, Queens, and Bronx resident Kari-Ann Kerr.

Note: This article first appeared at Newsday
Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

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