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Suit Charges Toshiba With Bias Against Non-Japanese

Times Staff Writer

A U.S. citizen who lost his job as a middle-mangement executive for Toshiba America, the U.S. arm of the Tokyo-based electronics giant, is suing the company for $2.6 million in damages, alleging that the firm treated him differently than its Japanese employees when it terminated his employment.

James Alfred Ristow, in a lawsuit filed last Friday in Orange County Superior Court, said that the company, in its operations in the United States, has violated the civil rights of its non-Japanese employees by “favoring employees of Japanese nationality and descent . . . in hiring for employment, retention in employment, employment benefits, salaries, promotions and responsibilities and opportunities for advancement within the firm and its corporate structure.”

The discrimination charges were denied Tuesday by Michael Ryan, attorney for New York-based Toshiba America. Ryan said that he had not yet seen the suit but that a Toshiba management official at the Tustin industrial electronics business division where Ristow last worked told him that “it’s the company’s policy to treat employees the same regardless of national origin.” Toshiba employs 340 workers at the Tustin facility.

Ryan said Ristow was not fired or laid off from his position as vice president of sales and assistant general manager of the Tustin calculator division. He said a three-year contract under which Ristow was working simply expired and the calculator division was closed down. He also said that Ristow was given a six-month leave of absence with pay to look for another job before his position was terminated Aug. 7, 1984.

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However, Ristow, 44, said that he had been employed 14 years for Toshiba and had expected to have a job for life under the Japanese corporate ethic.

In his 14 years at Toshiba, Ristow said, he never heard of a case in which a Japanese employee was fired. But, he said, he knew of several instances in the last three years in which American employees were let go.

Ristow’s attorney, George S. L. Dunlop, denied that Ristow had been working under a three-year employment contract. Rather, he said, the agreement to which Toshiba refers applied only to his salary and bonuses.


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