A solar company that was sued on Monday for racial harassment at its Natomas warehouse is now facing a second, related lawsuit.
Jason Flick, a Caucasian man who worked at the warehouse, joined Teshawn Solomon in alleging racial harassment by workers and managers at the Sacramento-based location of Vivint Solar, a publicly traded home automation and energy company based in Utah.
Solomon, a black employee, said a manager repeatedly called him a variation of the N-word and, along with other employees, built a clubhouse out of cardboard boxes around their desks, spray-painting “White only” on it.
Solomon said he reported the harassment to a regional manager, showing him photos of the clubhouse. The regional manager didn’t take action to curtail the harassment, and later told him not to speak to human resources, the suit said.
Solomon resigned soon after because he felt there was “nowhere he could turn to for relief from the discrimination, harassment and retaliation he was experiencing,” the lawsuit said.
Flick’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court against Vivint Solar, the manager who allegedly led the harassment and the regional manager who failed to address it, describes a “racially hostile work environment” in which Solomon was “consistently singled out for racial discrimination and harassment by his predominantly Caucasian co-workers and supervisors.”
Flick alleges he was told to scrutinize Solomon’s time cards extra carefully, and heard Solomon frequently called the “n-word.”
The Flick lawsuit also mentions the “White only” fort, which “disgusted and distressed” Flick.
Flick took photos of the fort and shared them with Solomon, who complained to management to no avail, the suit claims. Employees’ and managers’ conduct was “reckless, malicious and despicable, and was carried on with a conscious and willful disregard of the rights and safety of others,” Flick alleged in his suit.
Flick resigned in March because he “could no longer tolerate the toxic, hostile, racist work environment,” the suit said. When he applied for unemployment benefits, Flick included the photos of the fort in his application, which he believes were shared with Vivint’s human resources office, the suit said.
Vivint CEO David Bywater released a statement on Wednesday, before Flick’s lawsuit was filed, saying his executive team first learned of the racial harassment allegations when Solomon filed suit earlier this week. Bywater said the company conducted an internal investigation that resulted in the termination of one employee and disciplinary action for several others.
Vivint will also have an independent third-party review the company’s policies, and undergo company-wide harassment and discrimination training, Bywater said.
“The disturbing experience described by our former employee does not reflect the values or culture of Vivint Solar and stands in direct contradiction to our core values as a company,” Bywater said.
Bywater said he believes the racial harassment allegations are an “isolated incident,” and disputed some of Solomon’s lawsuit.
“We also believe that some of the allegations in the lawsuit are inaccurate and are confident that the legal process will help bring clarity to the factual discrepancies between our internal findings and those described in the lawsuit,” he said.
Corey Bennett, Solomon’s lawyer, said in an email that he finds it hard to believe the company didn’t know about what was happening in Natomas until Monday.
“We know the regional manager was shown a picture of the white pride playhouse in early March,” Bennett said. “We know the picture was submitted along with another employee’s unemployment benefits application in March. We know that one of the culprits worked at multiple facilities over his tenure. We know Mr. Solomon was targeted with the ‘n-word’ throughout his employment.”
Bennett also disputed Vivint’s characterization of the alleged racial harassment as a one-time occurrence.
“Calling it an ‘isolated incident’ might make themselves feel better, but it’s just not true,” he said.
The Bee’s Anita Chabria contributed to this report.