Columbia Records Sued For Allegedly Discriminating Against White Job Applicants

Columbia Records is facing a discrimination lawsuit filed by chief executive Ron Perry’s former executive assistant, who claims she was forced to resign for opposing allegedly discriminatory hiring practices by recommending non-Black candidates for an administrative position.

The complaint was filed amid increased scrutiny around corporate efforts and programs aimed at boosting diversity, equity and inclusion after the Supreme Court’s decision knocking down affirmative action. Last week, CBS Studios and its parent Paramount were sued for allegedly carrying diversity quotas that discriminate against straight white men.

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Patria Paulino, in a lawsuit filed on Feb. 28 in New York federal court, says she was tasked with filling a vacancy for an administrative assistant position to Perry. According to the complaint, she was allegedly told she could only hire Black candidates for the role because Perry has allegedly been the subject of multiple racial discrimination complaints by former employees.

In a court filing Wednesday, lawyers for the company called the allegations “contradictory and false.”

“She alleges under New York State and New York City law that Defendants both discriminated against her because they preferred white employees but also constructively discharged her because she would not play along with their preference for non-white employees,” the filing states. “In reality, Plaintiff worked for Sony Music Entertainment for less than five months, performed poorly, and was a willing participant in the entirely legal hiring practices she now alleges were discriminatory. She then voluntarily resigned after receiving unfavorable performance feedback. She seeks now to harass her former employer and boss, who sought only to help her succeed in her job.”

According to the complaint, Columbia Records “wanted to evade liability and give the appearance” that Perry was “not engaged in race-based discrimination by hiring more Black employees, particularly in the lower-level positions of the company.” Human resources allegedly directed Paulino to hire a minority with music experience from the pool of candidates, which included white applicants to conceal illegal hiring practices, per the complaint.

Paulino says numerous white applicants were qualified for the position but were disqualified. She points to unidentified candidates who met the hiring criteria outside of race, one of whom was personally recommended by Perry’s former executive assistant and now-director of business development Samantha Sachs in an effort to boost the appearance of diversity in the pool of applicants.

The complaint details several text messages from Sachs, who allegedly told Paulino that race was “super important” in the hiring decision and that the search was limited to Black employees. On one occasion, Sachs said, “We can’t hire another white Jewish girl” when Paulino asked if she could interview a certain applicant.

At the end of the “sham interview” process, two Black candidates were recommended to Perry for consideration, the suit says. Paulino alleges she was subsequently directed to tender her resignation for voicing opposition to the discriminatory hiring practices.

The suit claims Perry’s former administrative assistant, who is white, applied for a promotion to executive assistant but was turned down in favor Paulino, who is Hispanic. The ex-assistant was subsequently reassigned to another department because Perry and the company “preferred to hire a Black Administrative Assistant in the role to create more diversity,” the complaint says.

Paulino, who says she was labeled a “diversity hire,” also alleges she was discriminated against by Perry, who perceived her as less qualified because of her race and would frequently “demean, humiliate and criticize her,” per the suit. In one alleged incident, Perry told Paulino that her “anxiety is coming across in the work” and that the only acceptable responses to him should be “Yes,” “No,” or “I will find out.”

“Perry did not speak to Caucasian employees in this degrading manner,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit brings claims for discrimination, retaliation and aiding and abetting. It seeks unspecified damages.

Sony Music Entertainment, which is named in the complaint, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit was filed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year striking down race-conscious admissions in colleges and universities in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and further calls into question the legality of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts that explicitly account for race. Last year, 13 Republican Attorneys General wrote letters to Fortune 100 companies warning them that several of their efforts to boost diversity are discriminatory. In response, a group of Democrat Attorneys General urged them to “double-down on diversity-focused programs.”

Although the ruling is not directly applicable to private companies, which are governed by a separate set of federal and state anti-discrimination laws that do not allow employers to consider race in hiring decisions, several reverse discrimination lawsuits have been filed challenging individual employment decisions and efforts to increase DEI. In September, a lighting technician sued Meta and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers over a diversity initiative. Several law firms have also been sued over diversity fellowship programs.

March 6 2:41 PM PST: This story has been updated to reflect that the plaintiff was allegedly forced to resign opposed to being fired and that a filing was submitted to court denying the allegations.

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