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Women allege gender, race discrimination at Salesforce

April 8, 2016

Two women employed in the Indianapolis offices of Salesforce.com Inc. have filed federal discrimination lawsuits against the cloud-software giant, claiming the company passed them over for promotions on multiple occasions because of their race and gender.

Tanya Blackwell, who turned or turns 45 this year, and Maria Boyd, whose age was not mentioned in court records, each filed civil suits in the past month in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The suits follow complaints Blackwell and Boyd filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, court documents said.

Blackwell, who's black, and Boyd, who's Puerto Rican, are seeking damages for "wages, benefits, compensation, and other monetary loss suffered," although exact figures were not specified in the suits.

Blackwell, who also alleged she was underpaid, no longer works for the San Francisco-based company, which employs about 1,400 in Indianapolis. Boyd's employment status is not clear.

Andrew Dutkanych, an attorney with Biesecker Dutkanych & Macer LLC in Evansville, represents both women. Asked in an email if more suits were forthcoming, he said, "While additional suits are possible given the systemic nature of the allegations, there are no additional suits presently planned or on the immediate horizon."

Salesforce declined to respond to the allegations, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.

The allegations run counter to the stated philosophy of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who's an outspoken proponent of equal pay and rights for women and minorities.

Last spring, Benioff said the company would analyze and then eliminate its gender pay gap, and in a blog post last month the company said it spent $3 million doing so in 2015. That amounted to raises for about 1,000 women and men out of about 17,000  employees globally.

Blackwell said in a suit, filed Thursday, that she worked for Indianapolis-based ExactTarget Inc.—acquired by Salesforce in summer 2013—since September 2012 as a director of credit and collections. She alleged she was paid less than "similarly situated younger males and non-African-Americans" despite performing similar work. She also said she watched younger, white peers repeatedly get promoted while she remained in the same position for the final 30 months of her job.

She was terminated in April 2015 after her position was eliminated, her suit said.

Boyd filed her suit March 14. She began working at ExactTarget in June 2008 as a contract revenue specialist, and, after two promotions, was a global manager of credit and collections by November 2013. She reported to Blackwell.

Salesforce promotes employees in November and May, the lawsuit said, so in September 2014 Blackwell recommended Boyd's promotion for the ensuing November round. Boyd was not promoted.

When Blackwell followed up about the reason Boyd was passed over, she was told Boyd's promotion "fell through the cracks" because officials behind the promotions didn't receive a signature from a senior vice president, the suit alleges. Ultimately, the suit said, Blackwell was told that Boyd would be part of the next round of promotions in May 2015.

Boyd was not promoted then or in subsequent rounds, according to the lawsuit, which claims the company has "a disproportionate number of males and Caucasians across its upper levels of management."

While Boyd's lawsuit didn't indicate whether she was still with Salesforce, her LinkedIn profile says she's a global manager of credit and collections at Salesforce's Indianapolis offices.

Blackwell not only suffered from a lack of pay and promotions, her lawsuit said, but also was assigned to report to one of her co-workers who, like her, was a director. Meanwhile, her male, non-African-American counterparts reported to Senior Vice President Lisa Edwards, the suit said.

On or around April 16, 2015, Blackwell said she spoke with human resources official Angela Whatley about how she perceived she was being treated at Salesforce, and the fact that the company effectively ignored her suggestion to promote Boyd. Five days later, Blackwell's job was eliminated.

When asked what evidence Blackwell had for her pay discrimination allegations, Dutkanych said in an email, "She was aware of the compensation her peers received."

According to her LinkedIn profile, Blackwell now is a senior director of global credit and collections at Discovery Communications Inc. in Washington, D.C.

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