On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed in a Georgia federal court on behalf of “All African-American persons” employed by Time Warner, CNN, and Turner Broadcasting in salaried or managerial positions from April of 1997 to now.
The suit is headed by Celeslie Henley, a former employee at CNN, and Ernest Colbert Jr., who currently works for TBS, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Henley says she was fired five days after lodging a complaint with the human resources department about discriminatory treatment, though she’d been with the company for seven years as an executive administrative assistant. Colbert Jr. believes he is currently underpaid compared to his white co-workers.
Both allege that the lack of oversight within the company allows managers to use performance reviews as an opportunity to discriminate against black employees by giving them lower scores. They also say opportunities for advancement within all these companies is dependent on friendships outside evaluated performance, calling it a “glass wall” of segregation:
“As a result, jobs are filled without being posted, candidates are handpicked in advance, and supervisors who make hiring decisions have implemented ‘preferred qualifications’ to mask the prejudicial preference in their candidate selection,” writes attorney Daniel Meachum in the complaint. “Indeed, although African-Americans make up about 30-35 percent of the employees in the mid-level managerial and staffing positions, they are extremely under-represented at higher pay grades and senior positions.”
Meachum adds that black employees have faced racial slurs and comments from superiors such as “it’s hard to manage black people” and “who would be worth more: black slaves from times past, or new slaves.” Henley and Colbert Jr. are seeking “injunction preventing the alleged discriminatory conduct, the award of lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.”
The lawsuit extends to include anyone hurt by Time Warner and its subsidiary companies’ human resources policies.