Two engineers — one from Minnesota and another from Illinois — were fired after “politely complaining about critical race theory propaganda in the workplace,” according to two new lawsuits announced Wednesday.
The engineers believe that the “ideology of critical race theory” and related concepts, like equity and implicit bias, are “not an extension of the historic civil rights movement” but instead are “totally opposed to that movement,” said Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, which is representing the two engineers.
Justin Filip was an “exemplary” employee of Anaplan in Minneapolis who was promoted in 2019 after receiving “sterling performance reviews.”
But that was all tossed out the window during a June 2020 company-wide conference call with Anaplan CEO Frank Calderoni, according to a federal lawsuit Filip filed against the company.
“During the conference call Calderoni ‘acknowledged’ his ‘White Privilege,’ stated that Caucasian people have a particular responsibility for racial relations, and that all those at Anaplan would be required to engage in a discussion of racial relations, racial justice, and racial reconciliation,” the lawsuit alleges.
Filip posted his objections to an internal Slack channel for his coworkers to read. He was then subjected to “a barrage of negative comments from coworkers, in which he was called names (including being a ‘racist’), told he needed to educate himself, and had his own mental and psychological state questioned,” the lawsuit claims.
The next day, Filip was interrogated over the phone by an HR manager, Laura Whitehead, who asked Filip if he was “involved in ‘QAnon,’” according to the complaint.
“Whitehead made other comments impugning Filip, and suggested that he was unstable,” the lawsuit adds.
Just a couple days later, the company allegedly posted “a suggested reading list for all employees” that included titles from far-left authors like Robin D’Angelo and Ibram X. Kendi.
Filip again “engaged his coworkers on Slack” and was terminated by Whitehead the following morning.
“She advised him that the ‘stakeholders’ of the company no longer had confidence in his ability to keep his comments within what the company believed to be acceptable political opinion,” the lawsuit claims.
Like Filip, Chuck Vavra was an upstanding employee who received multiple promotions during his 13 years of employment at Honeywell’s Woodridge, Illinois, office.
But then Vavra’s superiors began pushing politically-charged messages following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
“Racial bias is real. Don’t kid yourself. Each of us has unconscious bias within us. When these biases compound, they can evolve into institutional biases,” John Waldron, a company executive, allegedly wrote in a Sept. 24, 2020 email.
Waldron said the company was committed to “ensuring 100% of the time that the interview panel and candidates are diverse” when making hiring decisions.
Then in November, Honeywell announced a mandatory “implicit bias training” for all employees.
“Vavra objected to this training based on what he felt were discriminatory, racist and otherwise incorrect and inappropriate components to the training. Vavra was told by numerous employees that they felt similarly about the training, but were intimidated by the Company’s statements and felt they could not speak up about their feelings,” states a lawsuit Vavra plans to file against the company.
Vavra declined to take the training and voiced his concerns to various managers, assuming he would be protected under the company’s anti-retaliation policy.
By March 2021, Vavra had still refused to take the training and was asked to attend a one-on-one meeting with Chris Maines, vice president of engineering.
“During this meeting, Mr. Maines asked Vavra to reconsider and to take the training, which he characterized as ‘one more box to check’ and ‘not a big deal.’ Vavra responded that it was a big deal to him, and that he believed it raised substantial legal and moral issues,” the lawsuit claims.
Vavra had concerns about the scientific validity of implicit bias trainings and tests, arguing that they are “generally considered to be unreliable and incapable of validation.”
He was later informed by an HR director that if he “didn’t take the training ‘that would be it,’” according to the lawsuit.
“Vavra again stated that he could not, in good conscience, take the training. Ms. Becker explained that he would therefore be terminated,” it continues.
Vavra has yet to be provided with a “written reason for his termination,” which he has requested.
Both Vavra and Filip are demanding back pay and reinstatement, or equivalent damages, and an end to CRT-based training programs and hostile employment environments.