Standard & Poor’s Hit with $5 Million Employee Bias Suit

A former employee of Standard & Poor’s has filed a $5 million discrimination lawsuit that accuses the financial information company of allowing other employees to harass and humiliate him because of his Hispanic ancestry and then fire him because he complained.

Raphael Garcia says in papers filed in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court that somebody spat on his computer keyboard while he was away from his desk and rummaged through his drawers and personal belongings.

Garcia, 32, was called “dumb” along with vulgar names for people of Hispanic background, was paid less than white co-workers and was given unjustified disciplinary warnings and low performance ratings, his court papers say.

Garcia, married and the father of 5- and 6-year-old boys, said the “emotional distress” and “anxiety” have had a negative impact on his well-being and marriage and have caused him to seek the care of a mental health professional.

A senior quality assurance engineer who began working for S&P in December 2002, Garcia earned $97,000 a year, he says. His court papers say his job conditions were fine until September 2005, when Marjie Veselik became manager of the quality assurance team he worked on.

Garcia says Veselik began “humiliating and hostile discriminatory harassment” against him, including calling him profane and racist names, denying him training and advancement opportunities and depriving him of previous job responsibilities.

“I received great performance reviews before she came,” Garcia said.

Garcia wanted to complain but was initially deterred, his court papers say, “given the embedded culture of discrimination that existed in Standard & Poor’s as well as the fact that Standard & Poor’s condoned and allowed employees who complained about discrimination to suffer retaliation.”

Garcia says in court papers that on May 8 and 25, 2006, he complained to the company’s personnel department and wrote to S&P President Kathleen A. Corbet complaining about how he was being treated. On June 2, 2006, his court papers say, he was fired.

A spokesman for the McGraw-Hill Cos., parent of S&P, said Garcia’s complaints were thoroughly investigated and were found to be unsubstantiated and without merit.

“The fact is, Mr. Garcia was terminated for poor job performance,” said the spokesman, Steven Weiss. “We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against his unfounded allegations.”

Garcia said that he is looking for a job and working through a temporary agency in the meantime.

The lawsuit names only Standard & Poor’s Corp. as a defendant and seeks $2 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

Standard & Poor’s is a provider of financial market information known for its credit ratings and the S&P 500 benchmark index. Its Web site calls it the world’s foremost source of credit ratings, indices, investment research, risk evaluation and data.