Comcast Accused of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Judge Certifies Class Action against Telecommunications Company

In July, 2014, federal district court judge Matthew Kennelly, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, granted class action status in a case alleging racial discrimination in the workplace by Comcast. Judge Kennelly decided that 11 named plaintiffs, all African-Americans who currently or previously worked at a Comcast facility on the south side of Chicago, had enough in common that, under the rules governing federal class actions, they could join forces in a single action against Comcast.

Racial DiscriminationAccording to court documents, the 11 named plaintiffs represent a class of 350 members, all of whom are current or former employees at the Chicago facility. The plaintiffs told the judge that they had repeatedly been subjected to racial slurs and derogatory terms, including being dubbed with the moniker "ghetto techs." They claim that Comcast discriminated against them by making them work in a rat and cockroach-infested building, and that they made numerous complaints about both the racial epithets and the working conditions, but Comcast did nothing.

To be certified as a class, plaintiffs in a class action must show, among other things, that there is a common question of law that applies to all members. Judge Kennelly ruled that, because named plaintiffs and other potential class members testified to the use of race-based comments in the workplace, there was a common question as to whether Comcast had allowed a hostile environment based on race.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs believe that the potential liability for Comcast could exceed $100 million, in addition to the payment of attorney fees, and back pay. Plaintiff’s attorneys sought the certification of an additional class based on allegations of discrimination in pay, discipline and promotions, but Judge Kennelly found insufficient evidence to certify that class.

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