OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – A metro woman believes her former employer singled her out because of her race during the coronavirus pandemic.
Heather Schlozman, an attorney at Dugan Schlozman LLC, said her client, Nina Nguyen, liked her job at The Taben Group in Overland Park up until March 19.
“They believe that because she’s Asian, she was somehow creating a bigger risk for them to transmit the COVID-19,” Schlozman said.
Documents filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) state that on that day, Nguyen was told to move 6 feet away from her co-workers for safety concerns over COVID-19.
Nguyen claims she was the only person in the office, with a staff of 15 to 100 people, asked to move.
“I think the decision to move Nina from her white co-workers, the only Asian American in the office — I think that decision was grounded in ignorance,” Schlozman said. “They didn’t move anybody else, even a co-worker who had a possible exposure.”
Schlozman said her client complained of discriminatory treatment to Randstad, the staffing agency that helped her get the job, who forwarded the complaint back to The Taben Group, a health insurance agency that merged with Navia Benefit Solutions in April.
When Nguyen returned to work, she was allegedly let go for being “unhappy.” Her lawyer said The Taben Group cited performance issues.
“This was clearly pretext, a lie for what was really going on, which was that they didn’t want an Asian American in their office, and they were ticked that she complained about it,” Schlozman said.
Schlozman said her client was not only discriminated against because of her race but her firing also was retaliation for voicing her concerns, which is why she submitted claims of discrimination on the part of both companies.
“An employer who takes an adverse action, or terminates someone in this case on that basis, clearly implicates the Civil Rights laws,” she explained.
Nguyen, who called the experience humiliating, wanted to share her story in hopes it doesn’t happen to another person.
“I just want this to be something that is not OK, and they know this not OK,” she said.
Schlozman said The Taben Group and Randstad have two options to try and resolve the allegations: They can either take advantage of the EEOC mediation or say nothing, which would give her grounds to file a lawsuit.
FOX4 reached out to both companies and received the following response from The Taben Group/Navia:
“We have received communication from the EEOC and we are working diligently on our response. Navia chooses to keep employee files and details regarding separations confidential.”
We have yet to receive a response from Randstad as of the publishing of this article.
A recent survey conducted for the Center for Public Integrity shows more than 30% of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the pandemic.