AT&T discriminated against Black technician, NC lawsuit says

A former AT&T technician said he worked for the telecommunications giant in Charlotte for almost nine years without incident until a new supervisor was hired in early 2020.

By the end of the year, his attorney said, the technician was fired.

Now Randy Williams is suing AT&T in North Carolina federal court, saying he was unfairly targeted as a Black man by the new supervisor while his white coworkers were let off easier.

“It was common knowledge at the shop that (the supervisor) and other managers were more critical of African American employees and gave preferential treatment to White employees,” Williams’ lawyer said in a lawsuit filed Nov. 12. “(The supervisor) and other managers made a concerted effort to discipline African American employees, terminate African American employees, or force them into resigning.”

Williams’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for AT&T denied the allegations in a statement to McClatchy News on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including based on race, age or gender,” the company said. “We strongly dispute the allegations in this lawsuit and will fight them in court.”

According to the complaint filed in the Western District of North Carolina, Williams was hired in December 2011 as a wire technician. His responsibilities included installing internet, phone and cable services for customers, running service lines and making repairs.

His attorney said Williams always received good reviews and annual raises.

Then, in January 2020, AT&T hired a new supervisor. Williams’ lawyer said the new supervisor told him during their first meeting that he was “going to fix him” and “stay on top” of him.

“These statements were confusing to Williams, who had rarely received complaints about his work during the previous eight years,” the lawsuit states.

Yet over the next year, his attorney said, Williams was “written up and disciplined more than at any point in his career.” Other Black employees were similarly disciplined, according to the lawsuit, while white workers were “rarely, if at all, written up” for the same things. Black employees were also fired at a disproportionate rate, the suit says.

In addition, Williams’ attorney said the new supervisor spoke to him “in a hostile and derogatory tone and would intentionally antagonize Williams.”

He was routinely assigned more difficult jobs than his white coworkers and intentionally sent to jobs “that would bring his efficiency numbers down,” his lawyer said.

“For example, (the supervisor) would send him to jobs that other technicians were not able to complete, which resulted in Williams having to return to the specific job more than one time,” the lawsuit states.

In October 2020, Williams’ attorney said he was sent to a repair that another coworker had marked as “completed” in their system. Williams was unable to finish the repair, and he, too, marked it as “completed” and promised the customer AT&T would return to fix the issue.

When the supervisor found out, he reportedly wrote up Williams but not the other coworker. Less than two months later, his attorney said, Williams was fired.

The lawsuit accuses AT&T of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on race. The company is also accused of wrongfully discharging Williams in violation of North Carolina state law.

Williams is seeking back pay, lost wages and employment benefits, compensatory damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

AT&T has not responded to the complaint, court filings show.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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