Time Warner Facing Class Action Discrimination Suit

CNN_Sign - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

An ex-CNN and current TBS employee are spearheading a class action lawsuit against Time Warner, claiming its companies have been mistreating black managers since the late 1990s

Celeslie Henley and Ernest Colbert Jr. are suing CNN, along with Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Georgia federal court. 

Henley says she worked for CNN for seven years as an executive administrative assistant and was fired five days after she emailed human resources about discriminatory treatment. Colbert works for TBS and claims that he is underpaid compared to his white peers.

Their suit claims the internal policies ensure black employees aren't promoted as often or to positions as high as are white employees.

"As a result, jobs are filled without being posted, candidates are handpicked in advance, and supervisors who make hiring decisions have implemented 'preferred qualifications' to mask the prejudicial preference in their candidate selection," writes attorney Daniel Meachum in the complaint. "Indeed, although African-Americans make up about 30-35 percent of the employees in the mid-level managerial and staffing positions, they are extremely under-represented at higher pay grades and senior positions."

In addition to "glass ceilings" for advancement, the complaint also says there are "glass walls" that segregate the company into divisions in which black leadership is acceptable and divisions in which it is not. 

Henley and Colbert also claim a lack of meaningful oversight in performance reviews allows managers to make evaluations and leads to African-Americans receiving lower scores.

"Upon information and belief, African-American employees have had to endure racial slurs and prejudicial biases from their superiors such as, 'it's hard to manage black people' and 'who would be worth more: black slaves from times past, or new slaves," writes Meachum.

According to the complaint, high-level officials at the company are aware of the problems but look the other way. 

A Time Warner representative told The Hollywood Reporter in an email Thursday morning that the company has not yet been served the complaint and will decline comment at this time.

Henley and Colbert are asking the court for an injunction preventing the alleged discriminatory conduct, the award of lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.

The proposed class is defined as: "All African-American persons employed by Defendants in salaried positions and mid-level managerial positions (specifically, managerial positions inferior to the Director, Vice President, Senior Vice President positions) in the United States at any time from April of 1997, to the present, who are subject to Defendants' employment and human resources policies and practices, including, but not limited to, current or former salaried employees of Turner Broadcasting Systems, including Turner's subsidiaries, Time Warner, Inc., and Turner Services, Inc. and who have been, continue to be, or may in the future be, adversely affected by Defendants' racially discriminatory employment policies and practices."