A Texas jury has awarded nine Black and one white former employees of a telecom company $70 million after they won a racial discrimination lawsuit against their former employer.
The collective alleged the company not only punished Black people for checking their phones while on the clock but separated the Black employees into two surveilled rooms in the office for executives to monitor.
They also said that if they left their desks without informing a manager or took breaks that lasted longer than a couple of minutes, they would be reprimanded, while their white counterparts would not.
A court ruled that Glow Networks Inc. and its parent company, CSS Corp exposed some of its former Black employees (and one white by extension of his advocacy for his Black co-workers) to a hostile work environment. The north Texas court awarded the group $70 million for the offense.
Court documents reveal there were originally fourteen members in the group suing Glow Networks, Inc., alleging that they had “both tangible actions, such as terminations and denials of promotions, and on the alleged creation of a hostile work environment.” However, four members of the group had claims that were dismissed by the court.
Joshua Yarbrough, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that he witnessed institutional discrimination at the company. When he was a lead engineer at the company, he noticed the company installed surveillance cameras in two of the eleven rooms in their Dallas office.
He said, “The African-Americans were pushed right in front of the cameras, and we realized that we were watched closely.”
Glow did not dispute placing the cameras there but did not agree on his assessment of why they were placed there and the motive, court documents state.
Yarbrough also noticed his Black co-workers were not treated the same as the non-Black ones were, stating in the lawsuit, “You never knew if your job was on the line.”
He also believed Black employees did not receive promotions and he was personally restricted when it came down to job training.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he was demoted and replaced by the owner’s girlfriend, who was Arab and had less tenure and telecommunications experience. He was later told that he had to report to them, so he resigned and went to work for Samsung.
After leaving the job, he linked with others who felt they were not being treated well and filed a lawsuit.
“We decided to take it in our own hands and actually go to court and really fight for something that we really believe is not right,” Yarbrough said. “African-Americans deal with this type of thing every day.”
Documents state that Harom Pringle, one of the plaintiffs, testified that at the office Blacks were not allowed to sit together.
“Glow Networks Inc. is extremely disappointed in this jury verdict as we do not believe it comports with the law or the evidence,” Global CEO of Glow Networks, Dharamjeet Taunque, said in a statement after the ruling.
“Glow Networks prides itself on maintaining a diverse workforce free of discrimination/retaliation based on race or any other protected status,” Taunque continued. “We are currently exploring all available avenues on appeal.”
Court documents stated that the company believed that they demonstrated “reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any harassing behavior.”
However, many of those who filed the lawsuit stated in the lawsuit that they complained about experiencing discrimination while on the job to the Glow Networks management and the company’s human resources department. The plaintiffs said that no action was taken to address their concerns.
Another example of racial discrimination actually came from a white team leader who joined the other nine Black co-workers in the lawsuit. Matt Lofland pointed out that when he recommended two Black workers for a promotion the executives did not honor his co-sign.
Other signs of discrimination occurred when the company was undergoing seniority-based layoffs and Lofland observed that only high-performing Blacks were let go, he claimed. According to court documents, he said his manager Pauddar was told by Human Resources to fire his Black team members but would not.
He was allegedly told, “Don’t lay off any white people.” Pauddar then responded, “I am not making any decisions on [sic] based on [whether] somebody is white or Black or anything.”
Lofland, according to Judge Sean D. Jordan, who gave an opinion on the case, was able to substantiate claims that the cameras were installed in two rooms, and the company slowly started migrating all of its Black employees into them. He agreed that management held Black workers different phones and social break standards.
He also observed that management was targeting two of the plaintiffs for making noise about being treated unfairly.
When he made a formal complaint to human resources, Lofland was demoted. Like Yarbrough, he also resigned, saying, “Everybody’s equal and the same, and I’m just kind of a personality who has been the kind to stand up for people.”
Despite this being a discrimination case, the lawsuit was not filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The group, according to their lawyer Brian Sanford, decided to use the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and argue that their rights as citizens were violated because of their race.
Of the fourteen that originally filed the lawsuit, only ten will receive an award. The ruling will give each plaintiff $7 million apiece in damages.
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