By Daniella Dueñas
DARIEN, CT – The story begins with multi-billion dollar private equity fund Portfolio Advisors, LLC, allegedly discriminating against a former female employee identifying as Asian American—the former employee reported this discriminatory harassment, which the private equity fund denied.
But a new civil rights/discrimination lawsuit filed in June in CT State Court emphasizes the way that workers, especially members of racial and ethnic minorities, can be left vulnerable to bigotry and injustice.
The suit notes the way that the intersectionality of identity can heighten or expand harassment in society, particularly in the corporate world in this case.
The harassment that AAPI women in the workplace experience does not just stay in the workplace but follows them even as they step outside of it, according to plaintiffs, who said they are left feeling as if they are to blame for their treatment.
“For many years, I blamed myself, questioned my worth and lived with real psychological pain,” explained Michelle Lee, a former employee of Portfolio Advisors, LLC, who worked there a little over a decade.
Discrimination against Asian Americans often goes unrecognized because of the misconception that Asian Americans, compared to other racial and ethnic minorities, are at a much better position socially and economically, argue lawyers for the plaintiffs.
The pleadings note that because Asian American white-collar professional workers are least likely among other racial and ethnic minorities to rise to positions of leadership or management, Asian Americans are still targets of racist stereotypes. And Asian American women are also targets of sexism and hyper sexualization.
Michelle Lee experienced both the former and latter forms of harassment, she claims in the lawsuit.
Despite her admirable work ethic and effort, she said was given names like “ice queen” and called “difficult to work with.”
Lee said she was blocked from purchasing equity from the firm, not given promotions and, if she was given a promotion, was given a compensation unequal to that of her white counterparts. Consequently, she “suffered psychological and physical health problems,” such as acid reflux and heartburn and insomnia.
Lee said she knew it was important for her to speak up and reveal her truth, knowing that many others in the Asian American community experience very similar problems. “People don’t deserve to be harassed and harmed just because they look Asian,” Michelle Lee affirmed.