Why Pinoy is suing US shoe giant Steve Madden

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Nov 26 2014 12:43 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2014 06:33 PM

NEW YORK – A Filipino worker has filed a complaint against his former employer, US shoe giant Steve Madden in New York.

"It felt like a high school cafeteria, that's what I felt when I was working, but instead of the teachers being able to help out the students, it felt like the teachers were in on the joke," said George Abella.

This was how the 29-year-old Filipino said he felt like while working as a file clerk at his former employer.

Now, Abella is suing billion dollar footwear company Steve Madden for at least $1.6 million.

Earlier this month, Abella filed an employment discrimination action against Steve Madden to seek damages and costs for illegal firing and for allegedly being subjected to a hostile work environment.

"Ultimately, the adverse employment action, that is the termination, arose out of his complaint to HR about being subjected to an on-going environment involving racist comments, comments based on people, national origin, comments based on people's sexuality and a variety of derogatory and offensive statements," said his legal counsel, Walker G. Harman Jr.

According to the complaint, a Steve Madden supervisor fostered a sexist, homophobic environment and allegedly targeted Abella with racist jokes demeaning Filipinos and other Asians.

Abella alleges his supervisor and co-workers regularly joked about the shape of his eyes, called him "chink," "wetback,"" spic" and suggested that, as a Filipino, he ate dogs.

According to the complaint, the supervisor allegedly mocked Abella for not knowing Chinese.

"They knew I was Filipino. At some point in time, they would give me documents that were written in Chinese so I tell them, every time, I don't speak Chinese. I don't know how to read this. Every time I do that he goes up to me, in front of everybody and denounced that, 'Why did we ever hire you? You don't speak Chinese. Why did we hire you?" Abella said.

Despite the alleged hostile work environment, Abella even received a 50 cent per hour raise for his excellent work performance.

In addition to alleged racial abuses, Abella alleges his co-workers regularly called him "homo", although Abella says he is not.

But last June, after reporting to their HR that he has suffered harassment at work for 5 months, he was terminated in an alleged act of retaliation, according to the complaint.

"I want justice. I felt like that this is something that shouldn't be happening," he said.

The complaint filed seeks at least $1.6 million for violation of Abella's civil rights and human rights, loss of income, emotional distress and suffering.

ABS-CBN News has reached out to Steve Madden's legal counsel but has not responded at this time.

An initial discovery planning conference is scheduled on December 19 in Brooklyn, New York.

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