MANHATTAN (CN) - A Japanese chemical company's corporate structure cannot topple claims that it discriminated against white employees from the United States, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
Todd Brown, a white member of Daikin America's six-person New Business Development Group, says that he was laid off after eight years of working for the company in the United States and Japan. Brown allegedly earned positive reviews from his supervisors and had a fluent command of Japanese language and business culture.
During companywide downsizing in 2009, three Japanese members of the group kept their jobs, two white members got the axe, and a third white member was shuffled to a different position, he said.
The three Japanese members had rotated into their positions from the company's Osaka-based parent, Daikin Industries Ltd.
Daikin tried to avoid liability by arguing that this corporate parent was not part of a "single integrated enterprise" with its Rockland County-headquartered subsidiary.
Though U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel agreed and dismissed the lawsuit at a 2012 hearing, a three-judge panel with the 2nd Circuit reversed Friday.
"Whether two related entities are sufficiently integrated to be treated as a single employer is generally a question of fact not suitable to resolution on a motion to dismiss," Judge Susan Carney wrote for the court.
Brown asserted that both companies "conducted interrelated operations, had common ownership, and were subject to centralized control of labor relations," the 26-page opinion states.
If proven, both companies could be held liable as an "employer" under Title VII and New York State Human Rights Law, the court found.
Judges Raymond Lohier and Gerard Lynch joined in the opinion.
Seibel will bring the case to discovery on remand.
Neither party's attorneys returned requests for comment.