Former black BP executive claims she was fired for braided hair and 'ethnic' attire

Melphine Evans, a former top executive at BP, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, in which she claims she was told her “ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles” made coworkers uncomfortable.

According to the 24-page lawsuit, Evans was working as the CFO BP West Coast Products when she was fired.

The former CFO claims she made complaints to supervisors and management regarding racial and gender discrimination within the company, and they responded with insensitive remarks, saying she was the problem.

Some of the offensive remarks listed in the lawsuit include:

‘You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles (‘Dashikis,’ ‘twists,’ ‘braids/cornrows’). On one occasion, a BP representative went so far as to ask Ms. Evans ‘if she understood that wearing a “dashiki” to work makes her colleagues feel uncomfortable?’

‘If you insist on wearing ethnic clothing/hairstyles-you should only do so during ‘culture day,’ black history month or special diversity events/days.’

‘If you are going to wear ethnic clothing, you should alert people in advance that you will be wearing something ethnic …’

Evans is suing for race and gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination.

She states in the lawsuit that she was complimented on leadership skills just weeks before she was fired and replaced by a white male employee.

“Although plaintiff’s supervisors, [defendants] Rita Griffin and Nick Elmslie told her on the day they fired her, that she ‘did not get along well with her teammates and colleagues’ and that she regularly engaged in ‘bullying and overly aggressive behavior,’ the plaintiff’s official 360 evaluative performance feedback reviews which were completed by teammates that were selected by defendant” included the statement: ‘Melphine is a people person. She engages her entire organization and is sincere in her desire to ensure all are valued and heard.”

An e-mail to theGrio contained a statement from BP spokesman Scott Dean, saying:

BP treats all employees fairly. BP disagrees with the claims and will vigorously defend the suit.

Dean also noted that a complaint filed by Evans with the California Department of Fair Employment (DFEH) was dismissed, concluding, “DFEH is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes a violation of the statute.”

Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @Carrieheals