Is Motorola Harboring Diversity or Disrespect?

The state's largest private employer pours money into African-American causes--but critics charge its bosses don't walk the talk

On paper, at least, the arrival of Doris Gray was a coup for Motorola, and Maceo appeared to be a good hire as well. Doris received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her law degree from George Washington Law Center. Maceo graduated from the University of Montana, and had taken additional business courses.

Initially, Maceo Gray did well. He was placed in a rotational program designed to groom managers, and received high marks from supervisors. Doris Gray encountered bad signs almost immediately. A June 1990 memo from Doris Gray to Kermit Beseke--business director of her department, and her immediate supervisor--admonishes him for, she says, having told her to "shut up." She writes, "This memo serves as notice that I will not tolerate being 'talked down to,' disparaged or berated by you or anyone else at Motorola. (Doris Gray chose not to speak to New Times. Her story is gleaned from legal documents and interviews with others.)

In July of 1990, Maceo Gray wrote to corporate managers complaining that Beseke was harassing his wife, and that in particular he had called her a "shithead." The complaint spurred an internal investigation.

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In a later letter to Motorola management, requesting an update on the investigation, Maceo Gray wrote that Beseke had told his wife that "a wounded animal is dangerous," implying that Beseke would seek revenge.

Beseke is no longer employed by Motorola.
There were no obvious repercussions from the incident involving Beseke. In March 1991, Maceo Gray was transferred to a supervisor, Wayne Stoltz, who wrote a less-than-glowing review of Gray after only supervising him for a few days. That followed two years with high performance-review ratings.

After minimizing Gray's value otherwise, Stoltz noted in the review that Gray "serves as a 'good will ambassador' to outside minority groups, when requested by Motorola management, on a voluntary basis."

"When you say these type of things on an appraisal at a high-tech company--I'm not there for social [purposes]," Gray says. "I'm there for selling, writing proposals, compliance and other things. Don't put this type of label on me."

Gray managed to obtain a transfer three months later, and his work situation improved. He became active in The Network, an employee group designed to promote minority concerns, and also to perform public service. Eventually, Gray became the group's leader, and soon developed a difficult working relationship with Bernadette Phillips Garcia, manager of GSTG's Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action department.

"People would come to me with their problems," Gray says. "What we would do, we would train people. Some of the blacks that would come in, their bosses and managers didn't want to do personnel development. So we educated them, showed them how to present themselves in front of management so they could go up in the corporation."

Gray says Garcia became upset with him because he was doing her job.
The rift officially developed, Gray says, after he argued with her regarding Doris Gray's nomination for the prestigious Black Engineer of the Year award. Garcia argued that, because Doris was not an engineer (she has a law degree), she was not qualified for the award. Doris was eventually nominated for and won the award.

Doris Gray's immediate supervisor, Bob Wigington, refused her invitation to attend the Black Engineer of the Year award dinner in Maryland. In a letter to her attorney, Doris Gray says Wigington told her he did not want to attend the dinner because his wife was not used to being around African Americans and might be uncomfortable.

It was that honor that led Doris Gray to a less enviable one--the Big Black Beatific Buddha doll. Doris Gray received the doll shortly after her return from Maryland; it was intended as backhanded congratulations from members of her department.

The award stood about four feet tall, Maceo Gray recalls--a Buddha doll painted black with a metal arc attached to its hands, with assorted sports balls (tennis balls, rubber balls, a badminton birdie) glued to the arc. The doll was labeled, "The woman that has all the balls."

In deposition, Motorola human-resources director Gwen O'Connor testified that to her knowledge, the award was passed out as a joke to employees in Doris Gray's department. In the past, the doll had kept its original color (depicting a person of Asian descent), but when it was given to a black person, O'Connor testified, it was painted black.

Although she acknowledged that she believed the award was racially insensitive, O'Connor said she did not believe it was intended to be offensive.

O'Connor recalled hearing about the award from someone in Doris Gray's department, but could not remember who.

She said in deposition, "Apparently, it was just a Buddha, and this person said, 'I was in the group when we initiated that award and we used to give it in fun to each other for some--something, you know.' It was sort of the biggest brown-noser or the biggest something. It was kind of a joke that they passed around the department. And he said it was always done in fun.

"And then I heard at some point in time they painted it black because I guess the recipient was going to be black. So the intent was to do it in fun; not to do it to be cruel."

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