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Novellus sued for racial bias

A former employee says he was harassed and fired after complaining about another employee's singing along to lyrics that included racial epithets.

The federal government is suing seminconductor company Novellus for discrimination and racial bias on behalf of an African-American employee who says he was forced to leave his job after complaining about a fellow worker's racially insensitive behavior.

Assembly technician Michael Cooke complained to his bosses about a fellow employee who listened to and sang along to rap lyrics aloud, which included slurs against African-Americans.

"That kind of language pains me. The N-word is not something I take lightly," Cooke told the San Francisco Chronicle.

When his co-worker's behavior did not stop and Cooke complained again, Cooke says he was laid off.

The attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government agency that filed the suit, said that while they are not out to judge taste in music, they are "concerned when we find that an employer failed to respond promptly after being put on notice of racially offensive language or conduct in the workplace."

The attorney for San Jose, Calif.-based Novellus said Cooke's version of the story is incorrect and the company looks forward to re-explaining the events to the EEOC.