Five current or former employees of resin supplier Teijin Kasei America Inc. have filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming the firm had planned to fire them and replace them with younger Japanese workers.
In the lawsuit filed Feb. 26 in state Superior Court in Lawrenceville, Ga. the employees accuse Norcross, Ga.-based TKA of discrimination, retaliation and obstruction of justice.
They claim former TKA CEO Yasushi Tanaka, who was let go in December, told them in early 2009 the firm was planning to move its main office from the Atlanta area to Chicago, and younger Japanese employees would be hired to replace them.
TKA is a unit of Japanese conglomerate Teijin Ltd. of Osaka, Japan. The firm distributes polycarbonate and PC/ABS blends for the parent company, but does not produce those materials in North America.
Officials with TKA said they are aware of the lawsuit and issued a news release March 3.
In the later part of 2009, several of these individuals reported to the company that the then-president of TKA had made inappropriate comments about the future employment of the people working in Norcross. The company promptly investigated and responded to those complaints, and that president is no longer with the company, the release said.
Since that time, one employee was terminated for legitimate reasons and all the others continue to work for TKA under the leadership of a new president. TKA regrets the fact that these individuals have chosen to take this action. However, once the true facts are established, the company expects that all of their claims will be dismissed.
The employees filing the lawsuit are general administration manager Ayako Cox, national sales manager Luther Pattillo, sales and marketing Vice President Brett Scott and customer support representatives Adriana Emmett and Meriam Pope. Scott was terminated Feb. 9 from TKA, but the other four plaintiffs still work there, according to lawyer Matthew Billips, who filed the suit.
In a March 2 phone interview, Billips said Scott was fired for complaining about discrimination at TKA. He also said former CEO Tanaka was fired because he shared the intentions of Teijin management with his employees.
Although Cox and Tanaka are from Japan, Billips said they're not considered Japanese by Teijin management because they're from the island of Okinawa.
The lawsuit also describes how plaintiffs Scott and Pattillo met Dec. 2 with Jeff Lane, a senior vice president with Teijin's New York-based Teijin Holdings unit. At the meeting the plaintiffs played a recording of Tanaka describing TKA management's alleged plans, the suit says.
The five employees are seeking unspecified compensatory, punitive and nominal damages. Scott also is asking to be reinstated with back pay; and Emmett and Pope are asking to be compensated for unpaid overtime and damages connected to that work.
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