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Black Employees Slap CNN with Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging Unfair Pay and Terminations

CNN (Josh Hallett/Flickr)

CNN (Josh Hallett/Flickr)


Black employees of an Atlanta-based media company have filed a class-action lawsuit against the organization alleging racial discrimination. The group’s lawyer, Daniel R. Meachum, revealed the news Wednesday, Dec. 7 in a press release obtained by Atlanta Black Star.

The suit against CNN and its parent companies, Turner Broadcasting System, Time Warner and Turner Services, came about after the cable network’s integrated marketing manager, DeWayne Walker, sued CNN in January to the tune of $50 million for racial discrimination and for punishing him for complaining to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the Westside Gazette.

“As a result of the current discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of DeWayne Walker vs. CNN, Time Warner & Turner, we have uncovered stories involving abuse of power, nepotism, revenge, retaliation and discrimination,” Meachum said in the press release.

Documents obtained by Atlanta Black Star revealed the class-action suit, filed Tuesday, Dec. 6 in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Georgia lists Celeslie Henley and Earnest Colbert as the plaintiffs representing themselves and other Black, salaried, mid-level workers employed from April 1997 to today.

Henley is a 44-year-old Black woman who worked for CNN for seven years as an executive administration assistant. She said the company discriminated against her because of her race, gender and pregnancy. After emailing human resources about the matter, CNN fired her within five days. Colbert, also 44, has worked at TBS for nearly 20 years. Despite his experience, Colbert said he has consistently been paid lower than his position requires and thousands less than his white colleagues.

In addition to Henley and Colbert’s accusations, the suit said there is a glass ceiling in place that prevents Black employees from advancing, noting Blacks make up 30–35 percent of workers in mid-level positions, but they are severely underrepresented in senior positions and higher pay. Black males see the lowest number of promotions (10 percent) compared to the Turner Media Group’s average of 22.3 percent. Of the 53 percent of employees who are nonwhite, no Black men or women have earned titles of director, vice president or higher. When new jobs become available, the suit said, there are “formal written and unwritten policies and practices” that disadvantage Blacks. Data pulled from Turner also revealed Black employees are terminated at higher rates than their white colleagues.

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