Case Type: Gender Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, Retaliation, Wrongful
Termination, Fraud, Theft of Trade Secrets, Equal Pay, Whistleblowers
Companies: Xilinx, Inc.
Sanford Heisler Sharp and Fitzgerald Knaier filed a $365 million lawsuit against Xilinx, Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX) on behalf of its former Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications, Sabrina Joseph. Based in San Jose, Xilinx is a pioneering leader in adaptive computing in the semiconductor industry.
According to the Complaint, in November 2017 Ms. Joseph was provided compensation information for the Marketing Department’s employees. That compensation data, together with conversations she subsequently had with the Department’s employees, revealed wide-spread sex-based pay disparities, a hostile work environment, and sex discrimination department-wide.
Ms. Joseph proposed plans for Xilinx to rectify these sex-based pay disparities within the Company’s Marketing Department, but when she discussed these plans with the Company’s leaders and human resources personnel after onboarding, she was warned not to get involved.
Ms. Joseph continued pursuing equal pay for the women in the marketing department. The Complaint alleges that Xilinx retaliated by terminating Ms. Joseph less than a month after it hired her.
David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp, noted, “Silicon Valley continues to suffer a great gender imbalance, with stark pay disparities, few women in leadership roles, and a culture of fear designed to inhibit people from speaking out. Ms. Joseph has courageously overcome that culture by demanding change when she worked at Xilinx and is now demanding accountability in her filed Complaint. A jury will someday soon help Ms. Joseph promote that change and help create that accountability.”
In addition to significant sex-based pay inequity and harassment, the Complaint describes Xilinx’s adoption and use of the marketing and rebranding plan and materials that Ms. Joseph created for Xilinx, significantly before accepting the Company’s position of SVP of Strategic Marketing & Communications. A well-established marketing expert, Ms. Joseph never sold or transferred ownership of her novel, tailored marketing strategy to Xilinx, although the Company used Ms. Joseph’s marketing strategy to drive unprecedented growth in revenue.
Simultaneous with her pursuit of pay remedies for the women in the marketing department, Ms. Joseph worked with the Company’s CEO Victor Peng, who adopted Ms. Joseph’s proposed marketing strategies and tactics. Those strategies and tactics included improved branding messages for Xilinx and compelling, updated language to describe the Company’s future and aspirational goals.
Long after her wrongful termination by the Company, Ms. Joseph alleges that she has remained the target of ongoing retaliation by Xilinx, including harassment, intimidation, and surveillance —all of which invades Ms. Joseph’s privacy and compromises her safety.
“Ms. Joseph’s courage in coming forward so early in her tenure to fight for equitable pay and a positive work environment for women at Xilinx speaks to how blatant the situation was. Ms. Joseph simply could not ignore it,” said Danielle Fuschetti, a partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp.
Considerable information demonstrates the extent to which Ms. Joseph’s approach to rebranding Xilinx had a direct and exceptional impact on the Company’s value. Ms. Joseph’s innovative marketing approach is alleged to have influenced Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Unit to become a Xilinx customer; and Xilinx’s October 2018 earnings report showed a 30% increase – allegedly credited to the Data Center First rebranding she developed. Xilinx’s market cap increased to an all-time high of $35 billion dollars – up from $17 billion in December 2017 – in response. According to the Complaint, under the leadership of Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx revenues were largely flat – growing from $1.84B in FY2008 to $2.54B in FY2018: FY2019 was the first time Xilinx achieved an annual revenue growth that exceeded 20% in over a decade.
The Complaint against Xilinx and the unnamed defendants responsible details 14 causes of action. Eight of these relate to alleged retaliation by Xilinx in violation of federal and California laws, including the federal Equal Pay Act, California Equal Pay Act, the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act; the California Whistleblower Protection Act; the California Labor Code, the state’s Unfair Competition Law, and common law. Others are based on Trade Secret Misappropriation; Common Law Fraud; as well as Intentional Misrepresentation, Negligent Misrepresentation, Concealment, and False Promise/Promissory Fraud.
Ms. Joseph seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, including reinstatement; unjust enrichment damages based on profits earned using Ms. Joseph’s trade secrets, estimated to be at least approximately $350 million; pay, benefits and other damages for lost compensation in an amount of no less than $15 million; nominal, liquidated and compensatory damages; punitive damages; all other monetary and affirmative relief to which Ms. Joseph is entitled; an award for restitution and disgorgement; litigation costs and expenses, including legal fees; and other relief the Court may determine is just and proper. A jury trial is requested in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara.
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