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PepsiCo is so intent on hiring and promoting minorities that they ignored the rights of Ms. Patricia Steffes.   She won $2.6 million for reverse discrimination.

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Case 18 - White, Female PepsiCo Employee is Wrong Color!
Updated March 16, 2000

Racial Preferences Cost!

Steffes v. PepsiCo
Court awards Ms. Steffes $2.6 million for reverse discrimination and retaliation.

New definition of the Pepsi Generation includes reverse discrimination.

GO:  Details of Steffes v. Pepsi Steffes v. PepsiCo:  Lifelong Pepsi employee Patricia Steffes was promised the promotion at Pepsi, she had the qualifications, BUT the minority employees threatened management if a minority didn't get the job.  Steffes was the wrong race.  But she won in court.

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Patricia Steffes worked for Pepsi all her life.  She had the credentials and the qualifications.
But she was the wrong race!

          On Wednesday, May 6, 1999 a federal jury awarded $2.6 million to a white woman who PepsiCo Inc. passed over for a management promotion in favor of a less-qualified black man.

          "The jury saw that Pepsi had broken the law.  It wasn't about black and white, it was about race discrimination in the workplace," said Patricia Steffes, 46, who won the damages Wednesday.  

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          Predictably, PepsiCo spokesman Larry Jabbonsky said the company will appeal.  Jabbonsky defends Pepsi's company line when he said Ms. Steffes was not qualified for the higher job because she lacked sales and front-line management experience.  Pepsi's Jabbonsky did not offer any data to refute Ms. Steffes' allegations that she had been denied the promotion because she was the wrong color.

          Patricia Steffes worked her way up from payroll clerk to a $73,000-a-year management position when she applied for the higher post.  She said that after she complained about being denied the promotion, her superiors retaliated.

          "They became very critical of her performance," said her lawyer, David Szymanski.  "They tried to transfer her to another part of the state."

          Patricia Steffes is now 46 years old.  Pepsi Company denied her a career because she is white, and because she had the temerity to object to having her job given to a less-qualified minority.  Pepsi doesn't like Ms. Steffes very much because she "went public" with Pepsi's unfair, racist treatment of her.

          The press reported that, up until her lawsuit against Pepsi, Patricia Steffes considered herself a true member of the Pepsi generation.  She was the second generation of her family to attempt to make a career at Pepsi.  Steffes joined Pepsi as an 18-year-old billing clerk in 1972, following her father and other relatives, and worked her way up to operations support manager for manufacturing.

          Steffes' attorney said her problems began in early 1996 when Pepsi promoted a black employee instead of her.  Steffes had been promised -- and was well-qualified for -- the next promotion opportunity which opened in Lansing, Michigan, according to her attorney.  However, Ms. Steffes didn't fit into PepsiCo’s aggressive minority promotion program -- the company needed a minority in that position to maintain its ranking as a "top employer of minorities", and to quell a threatened boycott by minority employees if "one of their own" was not placed in that position.

          Fortune Magazine lists PepsiCo as one of the top 50 worst places for whites to work in 1999 (Fortune actually promotes this list as "The Top 50 Best Places for Minorities to Work"). 

          As part of its aggressive minority promotion policies, in the preceding year PepsiCo reserved $285 million of its procurement budget for minority- and women-owned businesses.  Thus, Pepsi prohibited white, male-owned suppliers from bidding on this $285 million in contracts. 

          PepsiCo also made sure that a recent $2.3 billion Initial Public Offering was handled by a minority-owned firm.  The company also boasts minority membership on their board, as well as the fact that 2 of their top 18 paid employees are minorities.   Pepsi is quite proud of the fact that 25.2% of its work force is comprised of minorities, and a whopping 36% of their new hires in 1998 were minorities, according to Fortune Magazine.  Small wonder Ms. Steffes had trouble getting promoted in this company!

          Patricia Steffes' attorneys maintain that there had been a black male in that position who had either been fired or was forced to resign.  Ms. Steffes had been promised the job but, according to her attorney "There was rather a hue and cry among [minority] employees and [in order] to quell that [Pepsi gave another, less qualified black male] the position."

          Ms. Steffes wrote a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, complaining about discrimination, and she wrote a second letter to a senior executive at Pepsi.   After receiving no response, she then also sent a letter to her supervisor at Pepsi, Mr. Charles Stamper, who is named in the suit, according to court records.

          According to court records, Pepsi officials weren't very pleased with Ms. Steffes' complaint.  In order to minimize the validity of Ms. Steffes' complaint, Pepsi retaliated by commencing a personnel process known within PepciCo as "developmental feedback" allegedly designed to improve Steffes' job performance.  The process was "conducted by her immediate supervisor", and resulted in PepsiCo offering Steffes a lateral transfer to Pepsi's Port Huron facility "on a take it or leave it basis," according to Steffes' lawyer.

          And Steffes chose to "leave it" rather than "take it".  In March 1996 Ms. Steffes took a doctor-recommended leave of absence to deal with post-traumatic stress caused by Pepsi's treatment, according to her attorney (Szymanski).  She returned to Pepsi on Sept. 16 but was forced to quit the job after only one day.

          According to court documents, when Ms. Steffes returned to Pepsi, her Pepsi supervisors ignored her.  In retaliation for her filing a job action, they also ordered her to train another black man who was being promoted to a position above her which was very similar to the one she had sought.   Ms. Steffes quit Pepsi that same day, court records showed.  "They rubbed her nose in it," her lawyer said.

          Steffes graduated from college while working for Pepsi and holds degrees in finance and accounting.  According to her attorney, and the court records, she was more qualified for the positions than those promoted, regardless of race.

          "I'm sorry to see a corporation like Pepsi treat a longtime valued employee like Patricia Steffes like that," her lawyer said.

News Stories and Selected Sources:

Jury awards white woman $2.6 million for reverse race bias in PepsiCo case (dead link)
West Bloomfield Township, Mich. (May 8, 1999) - "A federal jury has awarded $2.6 million to a white woman who said PepsiCo Inc. passed her over for a management promotion in favor of a less-qualified black man.

          " 'The jury saw that Pepsi had broken the law. It wasn't about black and white, it was about race discrimination in the workplace,' said Patricia Steffes, 46, who won the damages Wednesday." (Associated Press via NandoNet.)
[former link **http://www.nando.com/noframes/story/0,2107,46490-75013-538717-0,00.html]

(Older, Background):  Reverse discrimination suit is targeted at Pepsi (07/31/97)
          "Pepsi was her whole life," said her attorney, David Szymanski.  But in 1996, a promotion she expected went to an African American.

          "Now, Steffes of West Bloomfield has sued the soft drink giant, alleging gender and race discrimination and violations of the state whistleblower law.

          "A mediation panel this month recommended that Pepsi pay Steffes $500,000. Szymanski said his client accepted. Pepsi rejected it. A trial date hasn't been set, and the two sides are fighting over providing information and a psychological exam for Steffes.

          "Steffes' attorney said her problems began in early 1996 when Pepsi promoted an African American instead of her. Szymanski said at that time Steffes was promised -- and qualified for -- the next promotion opportunity, which soon opened in Lansing. She didn't get it.

          "Our position is that there was a black male in that position who was discharged or resigned," Szymanski said. "There was rather a hue and cry among employees and to quell that they gave (a black male) the position."  (Detroit News 07/31/97 by Doug Durfee)
[link http://www.detnews.com/1997/metro/9707/31/07310096.htm ]

End Case 18:  White, Female PepsiCo Employee is Wrong Color!

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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.