All those complaints about a shortage of American software developers and information-technology workers?
Don’t buy it, says Byron W. Brooks, of Hockessin, Del. “You have to know how to look for them.”
But after winning a string of sales awards for placing armies of IT people, Brooks, 64, found himself out of a job, which he blames in a federal lawsuit filed in Philadelphia on Thursday on racial, age, and disability discrimination at his former employer, Dutch-owned staffing and outsourcing management service Randstad Technologies.
Brooks says he had his compensation cut unfairly and became the target of unfounded criticism after getting sick. And when he was ultimately fired, his division had no other black managers.
“Randstad denies the allegations contained in the complaint and we will vigorously defend our interests in the legal proceeding," Randstad’s chief legal officer, Jay Ferguson, said in a brief phone interview. He declined further comment. .
Brooks has made a career of finding technical staff for big companies. In 2011, Brooks says, he landed fast-growing Vanguard Group, the investment giant, as a client for his then-employer, Technisource, which hired specialized professionals to supplement corporate staff.
He signed Vanguard as the company was ramping up growth to manage accounts for millions of new customers. Vanguard assets tripled from 2011 to 2018, to $5 trillion. To help Vanguard automate services as it grew, Brooks and his team located hundreds of technical staff all over the U.S. and persuaded them to come work at the Malvern-based company, which employs more than 14,000 in that area, and has smaller offices in North Carolina and Arizona.
Brooks stressed that his beef is with the bosses at Randstad, not with Vanguard. “Vanguard was a great client, the way they treated us, the business, and the commissions. They really like and engender their contractors.” He said his billings to the company totaled more than $100 million.
“We found people across the country” who wanted to work at Vanguard, Brooks said. “Many times, they moved to this area. I made a strong pitch for the company -- they had a lot of talent shortages,” and opportunities. Brooks’ own office was in a Vanguard building, and hundreds of people worked for Randstad at nearby sites on Vanguard projects.
The good times continued for awhile after Technisource was bought by Randstad, an arm of the global, Netherlands-based Randstad Group, in 2012. Brooks won a string of outstanding-performance ratings, top sales awards and bonuses, and earned more than Randstad’s regional managers -- his bosses -- in King of Prussia.
By 2016, the Vanguard work got so busy that Brooks asked Randstad for administrative staff to handle the paperwork. But instead of building his support staff, Brooks alleges in his lawsuit, Randstad began splitting his work with other account managers. Brooks doubled down, winning a $1.5 million Vanguard consulting contract -- separate from the staffing deals -- that got him a commendation from Randstad. But his local bosses responded by adding another manager, splitting his account, and trimming his compensation again.
When he went out for brain surgery in early 2017 to correct a hand tremor, Brooks alleges, Randstad failed to fulfill the consulting contract; later, the company removed him from the Vanguard account. When he faced an extended recovery period aggravated by job stress, Randstad issued “bogus” criticism of his performance, he asserted, even though Brooks had continued to qualify for Randstad’s regional MVP Club for meeting sales targets despite his disability.
His replacements were white, and younger. In the years that he worked in the office, Randstad didn’t hire other black managers, according to Brooks’ lawyer, Tracey L. Brown, of the Cochran Law Firm in New York.
“Mr. Brooks was the only African American in his division. Within eight years, not another African American was hired. But as the sole African American, his complaints fell on deaf ears,” under Randstad’s ownership, Brown said.
When Brooks complained to Randstad’s top management in Atlanta, “Randstad doubled down” by threatening to fire him. With his health breaking down from the added stress, he went on disability, and was fired Nov. 13, 2018.
In the lawsuit, Brooks alleges race, disability, and age discrimination under federal and state anti-discrimination laws, and retaliation against his legally protected complaints. He is seeking a restraining order, compensation for loss of income, compensation for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and costs.