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An Alameda County, Calif., jury has awarded more than $1.8 million to a Filipina executive who sued Sybase Inc. for racial discrimination after she was fired from the software manufacturer. The jury returned a 9-3 verdict in favor of Marietta Harvey, 40, last week after hearing evidence that Harvey was fired and overlooked for two other positions later given to white men. Jurors were also told that Sybase’s president, John Chen, complained that a department in the Dublin-based company had too many minorities and “looked like an airport.” “[Harvey] was extremely gratified after all she’s gone through to have the jury acknowledge what happened to her,” said plaintiff attorney Barbara Adams. Adams, of Adams Nye Sinunu Bruni Becht, said the 2003 firing was “emotionally devastating” to Harvey. She has since been unable to find a new job. Harvey was awarded more than $1.3 million for lost wages and emotional distress and $500,000 in punitive damages. Harvey did not present evidence of a systemic problem with race relations at Sybase, Adams said. Leslie Nakajima, a Sybase spokeswoman, said the company would not comment on the verdict. Harvey, a group director in Sybase’s human resources department, was fired Feb. 18, 2003, allegedly because of workforce cuts. She reapplied for two new senior director jobs at Sybase for lower pay and fewer responsibilities but was not interviewed. Sybase instead hired two white men for the jobs after the president complained that too many Asians worked there. “The jury saw that these were nothing but fabricated excuses to cover up for an act of racial discrimination, even though it was by an Asian against another Asian,” said David Becht, another Adams Nye partner. Jeffrey Tanenbaum, a Nixon Peabody employment expert, said the award is higher than typical in race cases, adding that the “airport” comment is something jurors might have found distasteful, even if it had nothing to do with the termination. Tanenbaum added that single-plaintiff race cases are increasingly rare because lawyers deal more frequently with age, sexual orientation and religious discrimination cases. “This is largely because we see fewer examples of racial discrimination in the workplace. People now understand that racial discrimination is entirely unacceptable, so this isn’t surprising,” said Tanenbaum, who is not involved in the case. Defense attorney Fred Alvarez, a Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner who represented Sybase, was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Co-counsel Theodora Lee, a Littler Mendelson partner, did not immediately return calls requesting comment. The case was heard before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Dombrink.

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