Hmong financial executive files discrimination complaint against local credit union

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Damakant Jayshi

A Marathon Hmong county resident told council members on Thursday that workplace harassment and racism led to the loss of his job at a local credit union.

Kham T. Yang, a financial executive who has lived in Marathon County since 2007, said he was negotiating a settlement with his former employer regarding his termination in July 2019. The Development Department’s Equal Rights Division of Wisconsin Labor confirmed the complaint and shared the status of the case with Wausau Pilot & Review.

Jennifer Sereno, director of communications at DWD, acknowledged the complaint and said an investigator from the Equal Rights Division had issued a split decision on the matter, ruling in favor of Yang on the race-based harassment allegations. , but in favor of the credit union on the discrimination allegations. dismissal from his job.

“‘Probable cause’ with respect to the portions of the complaint alleging harassment based on race and national origin and ‘No probable cause’ with respect to the portions of the complaint alleging discriminatory dismissal based on race, national origin and retaliation,” Sereno told Wausau Pilot. & Review.

In his complaint, Yang alleges that on at least three occasions credit union members refused to work with him because “they didn’t like the Asian.” These cases, dating back to 2019, are detailed in the complaint

“I informed senior management of the discrimination, and each time I was told to get rid of it,” Yang’s official complaint reads. “Ultimately, (the credit union) adopted the discrimination of the members as its own by failing to prevent the
discrimination and ultimately firing me because I complained about discrimination and because (the credit union) was concerned that members would not work with me because of my race and ethnicity.

Sereno said Yang appealed the “No probable cause” finding. The next step, she said, is a probable cause hearing with respect to those findings.

The hearing was set for January 2022 and would become unnecessary if the credit union and its former employee reached a settlement.

“At any point in the process, the parties can discuss a settlement,” Sereno said.

Yang said the financial institution offered to pay his attorney’s fees instead of dropping the case, as he sought differences in wages lost since his July 2019 dismissal. Now employed, Yang was without employment for six months. Wausau Pilot & Review was unable to verify the negotiation aspect of the settlement.

Yang, during the public comment portion of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors meeting last week, said his experience underscores the need for the county to send a message of inclusion and diversity.

This was the second time Yang had spoken publicly about the allegations. On September 29, he shared his account with the county’s Diversity Affairs Commission and a few days later with Wausau Pilot & Review. He said he was fired for complaining to his superiors about “racist remarks” by someone close to the CEO of the credit union.

“That’s exactly why we need the ‘Community for All’ resolution,” Yang told Wausau Pilot & Review. “It’s because we don’t have that kind of resolution that people get away with racism.”

The proposal for a community diversity for all resolution failed at a meeting of the county board of supervisors in August.

Now Yang says he intends to leave the county – and said his decision is a direct result of the racism he personally experienced.

“I’m moving my family…Marathon County is very racist,” Yang told supervisors Thursday. On some occasions, he cried while speaking publicly about the workplace discrimination he says he experienced.

Yang, referring to discussions of the failure of the CFA resolution, said he was surprised by some supervisors’ remarks and their denial of racism in the county.

“A supervisor said, ‘We haven’t experienced any racism (in Marathon County),'” Yang said Thursday. “I’m glad you’ve never experienced racism, but what about us being told: go back where you came from?”

Yang then filed a complaint with the Equal Rights Division of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development as well as the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Yang told Wausau Pilot & Review that his layoff and subsequent period of unemployment caused emotional and financial hardship for his family.

Wausau Pilot & Review does not name the credit union until the matter is fully settled.

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a body member of Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project that places journalists in local newsrooms. Contact him at [email protected]

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