A former marketing executive was chastised by his bosses for being “too American,” wearing khaki pants to work and being too old, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.
Gray Hollett, the former chief marketing officer at Boyden World Corporation, a high-profile consulting and talent acquisition firm, claims he was unlawfully canned in January after he complained about the discriminatory remarks, states the complaint, filed Thursday.
“It was very upsetting and the kind of the way it happened was quite disconcerting,” Hollett, 61, told The Post of his termination.
Beginning in late 2017, Boyden’s board of directors chairman and managing partner of Germany, Jörg Kasten, started making “frequent derogatory” comments about Hollett’s nationality, saying he was “too American” and needed to be “more European,” the suit says.
“During the course of my employment at Boyden, I became aware that Chairman Kasten, other European partners and Board Members held openly and blatantly discriminatory attitudes towards certain employees at Boyden, like myself, that were born and raised in the United States,” states Hollett’s complaint, provided to The Post.
Boyden, which was created in Bronxville, NY, in 1946, has over 65 offices in over 40 countries worldwide but is headquartered in Purchase, about 30 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, according to the complaint and Boyden’s website.
Hollett said the “discriminatory and hostile … anti-American comments” were a “consistent” gibe from Kasten, a respondent in the complaint, but other European directors at the US-based firm held “anti-American bias and animus” as well, the filing shows.
In November 2017, Kasten chastised Hollett for wearing khaki pants, a button-down shirt and a pullover sweater during a board meeting and was told to be “more like” another executive who was in his early 40s at the time, according to the filing.
“I felt quite humiliated,” Hollett, a dad of two and Long Island native who lives in Connecticut, said of being criticized for his business casual attire.
He said in his complaint the comment was “ageist in nature” because the other employee was significantly younger than he and other “younger colleagues” consistently dressed in jeans and T-shirts but were never disciplined or criticized for doing so.
In August 2019, the managing partner for Boyden UK, Nick Robeson, a respondent in the complaint, was upset over a marketing decision Hollett made, the complaint states.
When Hollett explained his decision, Robeson told him his arguments were “outdated” and it was “time to retire,” according to emails attached to the complaint.
“Can you imagine being told, after more than a decade of success, it is time to retire?” Patrick J. Boyd, the attorney representing Hollett, told The Post.
“Ageism is something every single person may encounter and we need to fight against it and respect the invaluable experience older workers bring to the business community. In these times of COVID layoffs, where cost cutting is often a veil for discrimination, it is particularly important to be vigilant.”
Hollett said he “repeatedly complained and expressed my concerns … about Robeson’s overtly hostile and discriminatory ageist remarks” to Boyden CEO Trina Gordon and others, but to the best of his knowledge, “nothing was ever done,” the complaint states.
Following more than 13 years at the company, replete with promotions, raises and positive performance reviews, Hollett was suddenly terminated in January, the filing claims.
“I made it clear to Kasten and Gordon that I believed ageism and national origin discrimination were the key drivers of my negative treatment — and that I felt ‘shaken’ by these unsubstantiated attacks,” Hollett wrote in the filing.
“I believe that my age, national origin and complaints about discrimination were unlawful factors in the decision to terminate my employment.”
Hollett said he’s been “battling depression” following the termination as he navigates a pandemic-ravaged job market and the loss of a career that he loved.
The complaint further points to a recent commitment from Boyden to combat racism and discrimination in a pledge posted to their website in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the nation. The “outward” commitment makes Hollett’s alleged unlawful termination particularly hypocritical and was lambasted in the complaint as “nothing more than shameless self-promotion without meaningful, genuine intent.”
Boyden’s global head of marketing, Chris Swee, told The Post in response that, to his knowledge, the company has yet to see or be served with the complaint and “therefore have no comment at this time.” He added, “Boyden stands by its record of diversity.”
Kasten and Robeson did not return a request for comment.