Note from BBT: What is going on here? Imagine this. Your supervisor humiliates you in front of co-workers and demands that you take the braids out of your hair. You end up getting fired and, to add insult to injury, a court orders YOU to pay the company that fired you. This is what recently happened to Luanna Teófilo. The former employee of a multinational company was recently ordered to pay more than BRL $15,000 to the company after reporting a situation that she saw as racism. It’s yet another case of discrimination based on hair. The case marks the third time in recent weeks in which we learn that a black Brazilian lost their job for demanding that racist treatment be addressed.
First, there was Nataly Ventura da Silva, a food clerk who denounced the racist treatment she received from a colleague. Then we learned of the situation of medal-winning gymnast Ângelo Assumpção who was dismissed from the athletic club where he trained after reporting his experiences. Assumpção has been without a training club since 2019. Now we have this recent judgment against Luanna.
I’ve long said that racism in Brazil is the perfect crime. I mean, if you report a racist experience that you went through, the judge can define the case as simply racial injury/slur rather than racism, which carries a heavier penalty. Knowing this, it’s common to hear aggressors actually state that they’ll just pay a fine and walk free. In these recent incidents, we see that black Brazilians are actually being punished for being victimized. Will this become the new standard in Brazil to discourage black Brazilians from speaking out on Brazil’s dirty little secret?
Former employee is ordered to pay more than 15,000 reais to the company after reporting racism
By Juca Guimarães
Targeted by racist statements because of the braids she wore, a technology specialist in the area of products was sued three times by a multinational company and company director; not being silent in the face of racism also led a gymnast to be fired by a sports club at the end of 2019.
The holder of a master in linguistics, Luanna Teófilo, graduated from the University of Sorbonne, in France. She worked as a commercial executive at the multinational company PR Newswire, based in the United States. After being a victim of racism and reporting the crime, she was ordered to pay BRL 15,185.62 to the company.
The crime happened in 2016, when the company’s general director, Thais Antoniolli, made racist statements and used her position to embarrass the employee, specifically about her braids. The expression “Take those out!” used by the board member to discriminate against the employee in front of the team became the name of a page created to denounce cases of corporate racism. The page had to go offline after the company sued Luanna and Facebook.
Luanna was fired in October of 2016, after the repercussion of the report of racism on the social network. The company said, at the time, that it has a code of conduct and internal policies to establish “good co-existence in the work environment” and also “dedicated all efforts to elucidate the episode, which is totally cleared up”.
Almost four years later and for being sued by the company, the victim, who specializes in technology in the area of products, was condemned in the to labor court even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the new coronavirus.
“If someday somebody dares to say that this country is not racist, don’t forget that a female worker was discriminated against for her hair and black identity, humiliated in front of her colleagues, escorted out of her workplace, sued three times for telling the truth and condemned to pay compensation that will certainly be counted as profit by the company, after all, in Brazil racism, brings money,” wrote Luanna, via her Facebook account.
The former employee and victim of racism was sued three times by the company and the company’s general director; One in the civil court, where the lawsuit was dismissed, and twice in the labor court. The first was considered unfounded and the second condemned the professional in the first and second instance.
“More important than my conviction is the impact of this jurisprudence, which can be used against any worker who reports harassment and discrimination at work,” considers Luanna.
‘By positioning yourself, you lose everything’
The situation experienced by Luanna is not an isolated case. Like the case of gymnast Angelo Assumpção, 24, who worked for Esporte Clube Pinheiros, in São Paulo, for 16 years, building a victorious career, until he was fired at the end of 2019.
Assumpção was released one month before the end of the contract and after denouncing the routine of racism and discrimination he experienced inside the club since 2015, when he was part of the Brazilian gymnastics team.
“I can’t deny that I experienced wonderful things within the national team and Pinheiros. But society doesn’t have the literacy to deal with racism. It’s structural, it’s ingrained. From one day to the next, by positioning yourself, you lose everything. Everyone is employed and I’m not! Am I guilty of taking a stand on what hurts me? It’s no use trying to understand. We’re very sad, because it wasn’t an isolated case. It wasn’t the first time,” said the athlete, in an interview with Folha de São Paulo newspaper.
The gymnast was a six-time champion for the club and experienced a bout of depression due to racism and society’s reaction to silence him and blame him for taking a position on the video in which other athletes made racist comments about him.
“That is racism, it’s not a game. People are not ashamed of committing racism. They are ashamed of being caught. What if you take action? ‘You want to screw the guy’s life’, ‘will it end the guy’s career?’, we hear that. And mine? Racism is ending my life. And who’s concerned?”, said Assumpção.