Fired Male Heinz Worker Says Female Boss Engendered Bias

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By Kevin McGowan

Nov. 23 — Kraft Heinz Foods Co. unlawfully fired a male employee in its Pittsburgh-area operations because of his gender, a lawsuit alleges ( Caldwell v. Kraft Heinz Foods Co. , W.D. Pa., No. 16-1756, complaint filed 11/22/16 ).

Craig Caldwell, a Kraft Heinz associate director of packaging until June 2015, said his female supervisor targeted him and other male employees for termination to increase the number of female employees in the department, according to the complaint filed Nov. 22 in federal district court in Pennsylvania.

The supervisor concocted performance-based reasons for Caldwell’s removal as a pretext for unlawful bias under state and federal statutes, the lawsuit claims.

The company “believes this lawsuit is baseless and we look forward to presenting our case,” a Kraft Heinz spokesman told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 23.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars sex-based bias against men as well as women. Lawsuits filed by women alleging sex bias are more commonplace, but a male worker also can prevail if he proves gender-based considerations motivated an adverse employment action.

Female Workers Allegedly Preferred

Caldwell said he received above-average job performance reviews for 10 years until 2014, when Michele Bush became his supervisor in the research and development department.

Bush subsequently demoted or terminated six male employees, including Caldwell, the lawsuit alleges. Bush wanted the men out so she could increase the representation of female employees, according to the complaint.

Bush placed Caldwell on a performance improvement plan, and he “took all appropriate steps” to satisfy its goals and objectives, Caldwell claims. Nevertheless, Bush fired him and replaced him with a “significantly less qualified” female employee, the lawsuit alleges.

Caldwell seeks a jury trial, declaratory and injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged intentional sex bias.

Murtagh Hobaugh & Cech represents Caldwell. No attorney has yet entered an appearance for Kraft Heinz.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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