Man Claims Food Company Favored Korean Employees Over Others

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A gay Latino man has agreed to arbitrate his claims against his former employer, in which he alleges the Wilshire area food business favored Korean-Americans and wrongfully fired him in 2020 due to his sexual orientation, ethnicity and because he sought medical leave for migraine headaches.

Ommar Rivas had originally sought to have a jury decide the issues by filing a case in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 20 against CJ America Inc., alleging retaliation, discrimination and failure to accommodate. However, in court papers submitted on Aug. 2 with Judge Holly Fujie, both sides agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration with the judge retaining jurisdiction to enforce any award.

Rivas was hired in April 2019 as the company's learning and organizational development manager at the firm located in the 5700 block of Wilshire Boulevard, the suit stated.

The company hired mostly Korean-Americans and Rivas believes management discriminated against non-Korean personnel, including the plaintiff, who does not speak or understand Korean, the suit stated.

“(Rivas) was at times referred to as a non-Korean,” the suit stated.

A supervisor sent Rivas an email written in Korean that he could not understand, the suit stated, and the boss asked him, “Haven't you ever heard of Google translate?”

When a non-Korean coworker asked Rivas if he was gay, he confirmed that he was, the suit stated. She then told him she was at a dinner with the chief human resources officer, who said he was “uncomfortable with gay people,” the suit stated.

Rivas became an employee relations manager in April 2019 and his boss was Annie Lee, who ignored his requests for job training even though she was responsive to similar requests from Korean-American employees, the suit stated. Rivas began investigating discrimination complaints by some Hispanic employees, but he was ordered to stop without explanation, the suit stated.

After Rivas returned from Brazil in February 2020, got engaged and put a photo of his future spouse on his desk, he began receiving “critical emails” from Lee, the suit states. Rivas responded by disputing what she was saying and complaining she was discriminating against him, the suit stated.

Rivals also alleged he was excluded from management meetings that he should have attended.

The plaintiff's doctor put him on medical leave from April 23, 2020, the suit states. However, instead of granting the leave Rivas requested through June 1, 2020, the company refused to accommodate him and he was fired, the suit alleged.

Rivals has suffered past and future wage and benefit losses as well as emotional distress due to his firing, the suit stated.

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