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Gay Mexican Executive Clears Legal Hurdle, vs Coca-Cola Femsa | 08.03.2006 15:49 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

The first and second phase of the civil suit brought by fired executive Roberto Mendoza vs Coca-Cola FEMSA, a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company, has resulted in a ruling for Mendoza, who accuses the company of discrimination due to his sexual orientation.

México City (March, 2006). The first and second phase of the civil suit brought by fired (forced to resign) executive Roberto Mendoza against Coca-Cola FEMSA, a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company and Latin America’s largest soft-drink producer, has resulted in a ruling for Mendoza, who accuses the company of discrimination due to his sexual orientation and therefore of moral damage. The judge in the case ruled that defense’s argument that it was a “judged matter” is unacceptable; this verdict was ratified by a high court after Coca-Cola FEMSA appealed the original decision.

Coca-Cola FEMSA’s defense was based on the fact that Mendoza had resigned from his post and had reached a severance agreement under the Mexican Labor Law, thus rendering unnecessary any trial; however, in early January, Judge Roberto Rojo determined that this defense was unlawful, inasmuch as “This trial isn’t about a worker’s rights, but rather the moral damage that the plaintiff charges was the result of the defendants’ discriminatory conduct”; and confirmed a few days ago.

The charges of moral damage were presented in Mexico City’s 30th Civil Circuit Court on May 10, 2005 and were made public by Mendoza in a press conference held at the offices of the National Anti-Discrimination Council (CONAPRED, in Spanish).

On October 7th., Mendoza also criminally denounced his case at Mexico City’s Department of Justice based on Article 206 of the City’s Criminal Code, which among other things, penalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation. Legal analysts consider the judicial decision in this civil process to be of importance, since it could also have repercussions in the criminal lawsuit.

Mendoza, who started working at Coca-Cola FEMSA back in 1998, after serving its arch-rival PepsiCo. for nine years. At Pepsi, he had risen to the post of Director of Packaging for Latin America.

Mendoza’s hiring position at Coca-Cola FEMSA (March 1998) was: Corporate Packaging Manager, following a long and competitive hiring process.

“I held four different posts in the company, through which I was able to save them more than 40 million dollars”, declares Mendoza. “I took part in the development of New Businesses and the Company’s Operations abroad, until the Human Resources Corporate Director —Mr. Eulalio Cerda—decided to restrict and prevent any and all of my future promotions because of my sexual orientation”.

In 2000 Mendoza was named its General Manager Procurement, after having modernized the Department (2000-2002), boosting personnel motivation, service levels, internal client satisfaction and increasing the area’s roles and responsibilities leading to an upgrade of the function to Director Level, Mendoza was asked to take a lateral promotion to Logistics. A few months later became part of the diagnostic and takeover team of the PANAMCO territories, a Coca-Cola FEMSA acquisition.

“While I am head of the Human Resources Departement at Coca Cola FEMSA, I will not have a faggot as one of its Directors”, said Eulalio Cerda-Delgadillo.

“By July 2003, I was offered to assume the Procurement responsibility for the newly formed Latincenter Division (six Countries), based in San José, Costa Rica. As part of this move, my partner, of five years, traveled with me; because of our ex-pat status we decided to assume our relationship openly and I introduced him to my colleagues”. “Upon arriving at my post, I was informed that I my position would be Procurement Manager, while my peers in the Mexico and Mercosur Divisions would be Procurement Directors”.

Mendoza adds that after saving the company 13 million dollars, he was asked to return to the Corporate Offices in Mexico City, with the argument that this objectives on this assignment were well advanced. In a gentlemen’s agreement, he was offered the post of Director of Technological Development, as suggested by the Company’s President Mr. Carlos Salazar-Lomelin. But soon after this, he was informed that the only post that would be available for him upon his return to Mexico City was that of Packaging Manager.

“Even though this represented a career setback of six and a half years – to my hiring position in the company, I accepted, since I basically had no choice. I accepted, only after being told that the Director of Technological Development job had been denied to me because I was gay”.

“Eulalio Cerda, Head of Human Resources, said at an executives meeting that as long as he would be in his post ‘…no faggot will be a Director at Coca Cola FEMSA’. And this is the reason why I was held behind”.

Despite this setback which included a 32% pay cut, essentially taking him back to less than the salary he’d been making six years earlier -when inflationary indexes are taken into consideration, Mendoza did not give them the benefit of his resignation.

“During this period, I was continually harassed at work; all my actions and decisions were being scrutinized and questioned. On October 12, I was finally fired, later this firing was doctored up to look like a resignation”, Mendoza says.

“This experience has left me emotionally and financially devastated. Why should my sexual orientation be considered an obstacle to the development of my career? Now I’m faced with an uncertain future; I still haven’t been able to find work at the same level I had before”.

The World’s Second-Largest Soft-Drink Bottler

According to its own reports, Coca-Cola FEMSA is the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler Worldwide, representing close to 10% of the Coca Cola’s global sales. It has Operations in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina.

In these same reports, Coca-Cola FEMSA also states that 45.7% of its stock (KOF) is in the hands of Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A. de C. V. (FEMSA), while 39.6% belongs to subsidiaries of The Coca-Cola Company (KO), and 14.7% belongs to public investors though the NYSE and the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores.

Recent reports state that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations increased its equity in Coca Cola FEMSA to 9% of its shares. “If this is so, it would be to say the least, a mayor in-congruency because Microsoft has a high public reputation for Diversity inclusions in its workplace; with a HRC Corporate Equality Index of 100, why would they invest in a Discriminatory and Homophobic Corporation such as KOF?”, Mendoza said.

Roberto Mendoza can be reached at:

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