Comcast Tangled in Discrimination Suit

African-American employees of a Comcast facility on Chicago’s South Side are suing the company for what they say was discrimination against them and many of their customers.

Ever consider that you might be getting free roaches with your DVR service? Several African-American employees of Comcast in Chicago say that’s exactly what some customers on the city’s South Side got and the company knew it all along.

The employees are suing the company in a federal class action lawsuit that alleges Comcast Corp. discriminated against the African-American employees of its South Side facility and its own customers by requiring workers to install defective or bug-infested equipment in residents' homes and failing to provide them with equal pay, fair evaluations and opportunities for advancement.

According to the suit, since 2005, Comcast "has engaged in an ongoing pattern of race discrimination against African-American employees" at its South Side location. According to the complaint, employees were forced to work in a rat and roach-infested building with no temperature controls, and until 2009, a leaky roof. The technicians say they were often referred to as "ghetto techs,” "lazy techs” and endured one supervisor who regularly used the n-word. Employees who attempted to bring their concerns to management were called “drama queens,” “whiners” and “crybabies.”

In addition to office-related issues, the technicians allege that they were required to install defective and roach-infested equipment in the homes of the predominately African-American customers that populate the area. When the techs approached management about their concerns over installing the equipment in such a state, they say they were given excuses that the customers were likely to be "evicted in a few months" or that "South Side customers are more likely to steal equipment or not pay their bills." The employees say that other Comcast locations in neighborhoods without large Black populations are given clean and fully functioning equipment.

The plaintiffs include 10 current employees and one former worker who was fired in 2009. All are seeking lost wages and benefits and are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages that could total $300,000 per person, the maximum allowed by law.

"Comcast adamantly denies the allegations and will vigorously defend itself in court," company spokeswoman Angelynne Amores told the Chicago Tribune. "As this relates to pending litigation, we cannot comment any further.”

Although customers who think they too have been wrong are not allowed to join the employee’s suit, a Web site has been set up where customers can share their experiences and find legal counsel.


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(Photo: Fred Prouser/Reuters)

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