(SAN FRANCISCO) — Asian Americans throughout Silicon Valley are unifying in support of one man after a new lawsuit was filed last month against Lumentum Operations, LLC, alleging Asian discrimination throughout the company.
The lawsuit, filed June 30 by Andre Wong, seeks $20,000,000 in damages, claiming “Lumentum had a culture of prejudice against Asians,” according to the lawsuit.
“The damages figures reflect the impairment of Andre’s future expected compensation, how he’s been impacted personally and other matters, including making an example out of Lumentum and its bad behavior,” said Charles Jong, the leading attorney on the case.
The plaintiff, Wong, was an employee of the technology company for over 20 years, according to the lawsuit, before eventually becoming the vice president of strategic marketing, which Wong described as a “glass cliff job.”
While working at the company, Wong created and developed a new product line that specialized in 3D sensing and facial recognition technology, bringing the business $1 billion in revenue, according to the lawsuit.
Despite Wong’s success, he told ABC News he consistently struggled with rising in the ranks of the company.
“I noticed that I was kind of stalled in my career,” Wong told ABC News. “I had this sort of revolving door of white managers that would come through time and again, and even though I created the business, I would always have to train each of these new white managers, and I just felt frustrated.”
Wong told ABC News that during the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, many of the Asian Americans at Lumentum began to talk about the alleged discrimination in the workplace, sharing similar experiences to his own. This led him to co-found Lumentum’s Asian employee resource group.
Shortly after forming the group, Wong said he was laid off.
“We expect social change and change specifically within the company,” Jung told ABC News. “It’s the disparity between the regular workers, mid-level people and the executives with respect to representation. It’s very difficult to explain any other way other than inappropriate conduct. And we expect to vindicate Andre’s rights in court and also to achieve change within the company.”
Lumentum did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Stand with Asian Americans (SWAA), a coalition of Asian American activists, released a statement in support of the lawsuit, including statements from other Asian Americans speaking out against the technology workplace environment.
“Hate and discrimination at work is one of the most insidious ways anti-Asian racism shows up in our society,” said Justin Zhu, co-founder and executive director of SWAA. “Andre’s experience showcases how even in fields that heavily rely on Asian American labor, anti-Asian racism remains pervasive. His speaking up is an act of bravery, moving us closer to securing fair treatment for our communities.”
Vaishnavi J., former Head of Youth Policy at Meta, also spoke out in the press release about Asian employees continuously struggling for promotions despite qualifications they may have.
“Our contributions are valued and even weaponized against other communities of color as long as we keep our heads down and know our place. But once we dare to suggest that we are just as good, just as objectively qualified as anyone else for leadership roles, we experience exclusion, derision and retaliation,” she said in the release. “This is something we have whispered about as a community for decades in living rooms and over the dining table, but our parents and grandparents had to stay silent to build a better life for their children. We owe it to them to be the generation that ends this ignominy.”
If Wong wins the lawsuit, he plans to donate a “significant portion of the net proceeds to the cause of fighting anti-Asian discrimination,” according to the lawsuit.
“The main reason why I’m doing this lawsuit is to make sure that we can make this donation to the civil rights movement for Asian Americans and to continue to support this effort,” Wong told ABC News. “I think it’s an effort that is sort of in its infancy, but there’s a lot of stories and there’s a lot of activities that need to continue to happen.”
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