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Eleven current and former employees of Comcast Corp. filed a federal lawsuit this week in Chicago. Their complaint accuses the company of race discrimination against both the African-American employees and their predominately African-American customer base.
The workers were mostly employed in Comcast Corp.'s South Side facility in Chicago. Employees say that the work environment was hostile, and that they were often called names including "ghetto techs" and "lazy techs," reports the Chicago Tribune.
The employees allege that the facility was poorly maintained, leaked, was infested with cockroaches, and rats. Technicians say they were forced to install cable equipment into their predominately African-American clientele's homes even if they were defective or infested with pests.
The employees say that when they complained about this to their management, the response was to install the items anyway. The rationale, the Chicago Tribune reports, was that their customers would be "evicted in a few months" anyway, or that "South Side customers are more likely to steal equipment or not pay their bills."
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Businesses cannot hire or fire, discipline, or segregate employees based on their race. It is also against the law for businesses to create a hostile work environment, like what the Comcast employees alleged. Hostile work environments can be created if employees routinely suffer through racial slurs and insults.
It is also illegal for businesses, often considered places of public accommodation, to discriminate against customers based on their race.
The Comcast employees' lawsuit is requesting lost wages and benefits, as well as compensatory and punitive damages over the alleged race discrimination. Customers are not eligible to join in the class action lawsuit, though a website has been set up at comcastdiscrimination.com so they may seek legal advice.