1/9/2013Redflex Traffic Systems Sued Over Anti-Australian Bias
Lawsuit alleges head of US operations for speed camera firm Redflex harbors bias against Australians.
A former red light camera company sales manager is suing Redflex Traffic Systems claiming she was fired for having an Australian accent. Catherine Petzel was responsible for convincing small towns in the Ohio region to embrace the use of automated ticketing machines. Her plight is rather unusual, considering Redflex is based in Melbourne, Australia though its US operations are handled in Phoenix, Arizona under the direction of Redflex board member Karen Finley.
"Defendant Finley harbors a well-known anti-Australian bias, despite the fact that Reflex Traffic Systems North America is owned by an Australian parent company," Petzel argued in her complaint. "On numerous occasions, Finley has made derogatory comments to Redflex employees about 'the Australians.' ...Ms. Finley also questioned the propriety of having an Australian in Ms. Petzel's position, expressing a concern that potential customers might view Redflex as being too Australian."
Finley is a US citizen born in Dayton, Ohio with a bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix.
Petzel is asking the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to hold a jury trial to weigh her claim that her January 1, 2012 firing was based on "national origin discrimination." In September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent Petzel a notice indicating her right to sue.
According to her complaint, Petzel was placed on a performance improvement plan in 2011 as a prelude to her termination. She insists Redflex Vice President Aaron Rosenberg refused to attend a sales presentation in Iowa that resulted in the loss of a significant sale. Instead, Petzel claims, Rosenberg sent male colleagues to conferences and gave them better sales territories.
"At least one, and perhaps both, of Ms. Petzel's male peers who were similarly on performance improvement plans failed to meet the sales goals provided in the performance improvement plans," the complaint asserts. "Neither of these two male colleagues was terminated by Redflex."
Petzel is seeking compensatory damages and coverage of her attorney's fees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act offers judges a number of remedies for confirmed cases of discrimination. The fired employee can be reinstated, with or without back pay. The court could also require an affirmative action plan designed to combat anti-Australian bias.