A former AIG lawyer is suing the insurance giant for discrimination, claiming colleagues and supervisors taunted him, mistreated him and ultimately fired him because he is black.
Earl E. Brown, 40, filed suit in federal court in New York on Wednesday against his former boss and AIG Investments, a subsidiary of AIG, the insurance giant that survived the 2008 economic collapse with a U.S. government bailout. The suit alleges that Brown's boss, John P. Hornbostel, then a managing director, fostered an environment in which Brown was exposed to "discriminatory, humiliating, lewd, crude, unprofessional and inappropriate jokes, behavior, statements, innuendo, remarks, gestures comments, discussions and overall blatant and suggestive racist terms." The suit was first reported by The New York Post.
In one instance, the suit says, Hornbostel asked Brown into his office, only to yell: "Hey! Hey! Hey! It's Fat Albert! Do you remember that cartoon!" Brown was the only African American in a group of 50 lawyers, according to the complaint. Hornbostel told his executive assistant, in front of Brown, to "take Earl with you" next time she needed to get documents signed by someone in the office, the suit says. "I'm sure with this brother behind you, he can scare anyone into signing quickly," the suit says Hornbostel told the assistant.
"Earl Brown is an accomplished, accredited, diligent, hardworking attorney who was treated differently solely based upon his race," Eric Stern, a lawyer for Brown, told The Huffington Post. "They have an obligation to create a harassment-free work environment."
AIG spokesman Mark Herr called the lawsuit "baseless and without merit." He said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Brown's complaint and "a third party looked at his complaint and found that it was without merit." An EEOC spokesman couldn't immediately be reached for comment
Hornbostel denied Brown an office, though every other lawyer in the group got one, and made him share a cubicle with assistants and paralegals, the suit says. Brown has a master's degree from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, according to the complaint. Once, Hornbostel chucked a newspaper at Brown's head, the suit says.
In July 2008, Brown said he was informed by another employee that Hornbostel wanted Brown fired. Brown then sent a letter to Angela Mauro, an AIG employee relations director, complaining of Hornbostel's behavior, according to the complaint.
"My experience has been marked by antagonistic, condescending, and at times disparate treatment," the letter read, according to the complaint. "It is my strong belief that it has been [Hornbostel's] every intent to discourage my participation in the group, malign my character among the very individuals I was asked to work for and with, and generally effort to 'prepare an argument for my termination.'"
"His desire in my opinion, has manifest in treatment toward me that is absolutely capricious, unprofessional, conspiratorial and very likely illegal," the letter reads. The suit alleges no human resources action was taken in response to the complaint.
AIG fired Brown in March 2009, telling him his "position had been cut," according to the suit.