Sony Fires Back at Lawsuit Claiming Columbia Discriminated Against White Applicants: ‘Contradictory and False’

Sony Music is quickly fighting back against a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former assistant to Columbia Records chief executive Ron Perry over race-conscious hiring policies, saying the allegations are “contradictory and false” and are designed to “harass her former employer.”

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The case, filed last week by Patria Paulino, claims that she was forced to resign after she pushed back on hiring practices that allegedly discriminated against white applicants. She claims she was “explicitly told that she could only hire Black candidates” because Perry wanted bolster the appearance of diversity.

But in a blistering motion on Wednesday – an unusually fast response for any lawsuit – attorneys for Sony and Perry called the accusations “contradictory and false” and asked a federal judge to toss them out of court.

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“She alleges … that defendants both discriminated against her because they preferred white employees but also constructively discharged her because she would not play along with their preference for non-white employees,” the label’s lawyers wrote, adding the italics themselves for emphasis. “In reality, plaintiff worked for Sony … for less than five months, performed poorly, and was a willing participant in the entirely legal hiring practices she now alleges were discriminatory.”

Sony’s response argued that far from being effectively fired, Paulino “voluntarily resigned after receiving unfavorable performance feedback.” The label said she had filed her case simply “to harass her former employer and boss, who sought only to help her succeed in her job.”

Though it sharply criticized the merits of the case, Sony’s filing actually attacked the case on simpler grounds: That the federal court where she filed the case cannot procedurally hear it. The company says there is not the required cross-state jurisdiction for the case to be handled in federal court.

In a statement to Billboard, Paulino’s attorney Erica L. Shnayder stressed that Sony’s motion “involves a procedural issue” and “has no bearing on the factual allegations which are supported by text messages.” Shnayder added: “The case will proceed forward.”

Paulino sued on Friday (March 1), claiming that after she was hired by Sony in late 2022, she was repeatedly told she could not hire white candidates for a vacant assistant role in Perry’s office. She says that Perry had been hit with “multiple racial discrimination complaints by former employees” and that he and the company wanted to “have more color in his office.”

“Although numerous Caucasian candidates were qualified for the position, they were removed from consideration because of their race,” Paulino’s lawyers wrote in their complaint.

The lawsuit came in the wake of a high-profile Supreme Court ruling last year that outlawed the use of race-conscious admissions in higher education, commonly known as “affirmative action.” Though that ruling didn’t directly deal with hiring or with the state laws at issue in Paulino’s case, it has led to overall increased scrutiny of corporate practices aimed at diversity, equity and inclusion. Last week, CBS and Paramount were hit with a similar lawsuit, claiming they had broken the law by using diversity quotas that discriminated against white men.

Despite the directives to aim for diversity, Paulino’s lawsuit claims she “continued to recommend qualified Caucasian applicants” for the role. At one point, when she advanced a particular white candidate, she says that another Sony employee told her in writing: “We can’t hire another white Jewish girl unfortunately.” Her lawyers say Sony conducted “sham” interviews with candidates of all backgrounds, but in reality was determined to only hire a Black candidate.

In March 2023, Paulino says she was effectively forced to resign from her job. A Sony employee allegedly told her to do so because she “was not really working out,” but she says the move was made “in retaliation for plaintiff’s opposition to defendants’ discriminatory hiring practices.”

As noted in Sony’s response, the lawsuit also includes other allegations beyond the hiring policies. In addition to claiming the company discriminated against white job seekers, Paulino (who says she is Hispanic) also claims that the company also discriminated against her on the basis of her race.

A spokesperson for Sony Music declined to comment on the lawsuit’s allegations, citing the pending nature of the case.

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