A former Mattel corporate communications executive sued the El Segundo-based toy manufacturer Thursday, alleging she was fired for complaining about a supervisor’s derogatory remarks about women and his preference for hiring males.
Julie A. “Jules” Andres had a stellar record over a decade with the company and generated positive media reports for Mattel, according to her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit. She is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, alleging retaliation, sex discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination.
Mattel spokesman Alex Clark said he could not comment on the lawsuit.
Andres, now 48, says she was hired by Mattel in February 2002 as manager of corporate communications in the corporate affairs division of the world’s largest toymaker. She reported directly to Lisa Marie Bongiovanni, who was then vice president of corporate affairs, according to her complaint.
Andres not only handled her own tasks and received steady pay raises and accolades, but also filled in for Bongiovanni three times when her boss went on maternity leave, the suit states.
In May 2013, Mattel hired Dallas Lawrence to replace Bongiovanni, though he had never worked for a large public corporation, according to Andres’ court papers. The next month, Lawrence asked Andres to work on an internal communications strategy, a task that she looked forward to handling, according to her suit.
However, as Andres got up to leave a meeting with Lawrence, he “looked her straight in the eye” and used an epithet to warn her not to make any mistakes, the suit alleges. Andres was “shocked” by the remark because she had never heard vulgar language from anyone giving her an assignment at Mattel, according to her court papers.
The plaintiff alleges that during a September 2013 meeting with Andres and the female vice president of Mattel’s diversity and global sales training, Lawrence talked about the company’s travel restrictions and said, “I joined the corporate world for boondoggles. Where are my hookers and cocaine?”
Andres was “stunned and speechless” that Lawrence would condone the misuse of Mattel resources and make such a degrading comment about women, the suit alleges.
Andres claims that other women within Mattel began to complain about Lawrence, including Deidre Lind, the company’s director of philanthropy, who also reported to Lawrence. Lind, who devised the strategy and created the framework for Mattel’s charitable activities, resigned after a decade at Mattel because Lawrence treated women employees “like secretaries” and refused to answer emails, the suit alleges.
Lind now works in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, according to the suit, which says Lawrence hired a man to replace her.
In March, Andres says she complained to two human resources executives about Lawrence’s allegedly disparaging remarks about women and preference for hiring males. Later that month Andres was fired by the company’s CFO, who previously gave her one of the firm’s highest employee recognition awards, her suit states.
Andres says she was told she “did not have the skill set to be part of Mattel’s communications team.” Later, a human resources employee contradicted the CFO’s explanation and told Andres she had been on “Mattel’s reduction in force list prior to making her complaint,” the suit states.
Two months later, Andres applied for an open position for Mattel’s communications manager/corporate affairs and philanthropy position but was never contacted despite her strong qualifications, the suit states.
Andres applied in June for a second open Mattel position of manager of internal communications but once again, no one from the company got in touch with her despite her qualifications, according to her lawsuit.
“Mattel’s termination of Ms. Andres’ employment and subsequent refusal to hire her for other vacant positions … for which she applied and was qualified is powerful evidence that Ms. Andres was terminated because she is a woman and because she complained about sex discrimination and not because of a reduction in (the work) force,” the suit alleges.
— City News Service