Former and current black employees on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit against Atlanta-based CNN, Turner Broadcasting System and New York-based parent company Time Warner Inc. for racial discrimination.
We have uncovered stories involving abuse of power, nepotism, revenge, retaliation and discrimination, lead attorney Daniel Meachum said in a press release.
The 40-page lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia, said blacks especially black males are discriminated against in evaluations, compensation and promotions.
A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday about the lawsuit.
The class-action suit identifies two plaintiffs by name, but Meachum at a press conference Wednesday said at least 30 midlevel black CNN and Turner Broadcasting employees are impacted going back 20 years.
This discrimination represents a company-wide pattern and practice, the lawsuit asserts, rather than a series of isolated incidents.
Celeslie Henley, 44, worked at CNN for seven years as an executive administrative assistant. She alleged that she was mistreated in the workforce based on race, sex and pregnancy. She said she worked far longer hours than her white counterparts. And she said she was treated significantly worse after coming back from maternity leave.
She said she was fired as retaliation for complaining to human resources in early 2014.
Ernest Colbert, 44, has worked at TBS for almost 20 years. He claimed in the lawsuit that he was consistently paid below grade level compared to comparable white employees. He also said he failed to receive a proper job description for nine years and was given senior-level managerial work without being fairly compensated.
He was promoted in August 2016 to senior manager but said he is still underpaid compared to his white counterparts with comparable jobs. Additionally, years of Mr. Colberts positive performance evaluations have been nullified due to TBSs failure to maintain Mr. Colberts personnel file, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit compiled data provided by Turner and noted that blacks receive disproportionately lower scores on evaluations. The data also noted that blacks are terminated at a higher rate than whites and promoted at a significantly slower rate.
It also alleged that written and unwritten policies and practices for performing evaluations and promotions discriminate against blacks. Those policies allow supervisors to essentially handpick candidates through word of mouth for available positions and make promotion decisions on the basis of subjective criteria, the lawsuit said. This system prevents qualified African-Americans from competing equally for positions or even knowing that they are available.
At least four other individual lawsuits have been filed against CNN for racial discrimination since 2014. CNN President Jeff Zucker, when asked about those lawsuits last month by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, declined to comment.
The class action covers all blacks employed in salaried and midlevel managerial positions in the United States at any time from April 1997 to the present.
Ive seen people at Turner that have worked there for 14, 15 years with a total raise over that time of $5,000 to $6,000. Thats horrible, Meachum said. That is not the face that I think Turner and CNN wants to put on. Thats the reality of the people who work there.
He declined to make his plaintiffs available for comment, saying he does not want to place them at any disadvantage in the future when or if the defendants question them.