FORT WORTH, Texas – AT&T, named one of the 40 “best diversified” companies by Black Enterprise magazine, has been ordered to pay $411,339 to a Fort Worth, Texas, woman who was one of three African-American employees to file suit accusing the company of racial discrimination at its Arlington, Texas, call center.

LaKecious Edwards received the award from a Dallas jury last week, her lawyer said Friday.

Another of the trio, manager Vincent Hall, 49, of DeSoto, Texas, settled for an undisclosed amount in February and retired after 26 years with the company, AT&T confirmed.

Eighteen years ago, Hall co-founded Dallas’ KwanzaaFest, whose major corporate sponsors include the telecommunications giant.

The third case, filed by Sonia Hackley of North Richland Hills, Texas, is awaiting trial.

Dallas attorney Stephen Drinnon said six other minority employees with similar complaints could not file lawsuits because the statute of limitations ran out while they waited for responses from AT&T’s legal department to internally lodged grievances.

On Monday, a jury sided with the 32-year-old Edwards, who filed internal grievances as well as taking her case to state court. She complained that three white co-workers, including two under disciplinary review, were promoted to first-line management positions for which she had applied despite her superior sales performance record and greater seniority, Drinnon said.

AT&T denies any wrongdoing and says it will appeal.

“We are confident that we have done nothing wrong, and we are exploring our options regarding a possible appeal,” said a company statement released through the public-relations firm Fleischman-Hillard. “AT&T has an excellent track record when it comes to the company’s fair treatment of minority employees. For AT&T, diversity and inclusion will always be top priorities.”

Edwards was a shop steward for the Communications Workers of America union. The harassment and discrimination against her were not in retaliation for her labor activism because she would have had to leave the union upon promotion to management, Drinnon said.

One manager said in a deposition that Edwards was not promoted because she spoke so fast that men couldn’t understand her and because she was too emotional. Edwards had cried after approaching the manager about a co-worker who had been disciplined.

In another instance, the manager told people considering candidates for a sub-management position that Edwards was not interested in the job when in fact she was, an AT&T diversity officer testified.

The higher-paying position was given to a white co-worker with less seniority, the suit alleged. After Edwards complained, she was given the job but was told soon afterward that it was being dissolved. Three days after she moved into a lower position, the job was filled by the same white worker.

Edwards was promoted to manager-coach several months after the manager was voluntarily transferred to Austin last year, and gave up her union position.

“I just take it day by day and I stay prayed up,” Edwards said, when asked how she is now treated on the job.

Hall sued after being relieved of responsibilities when he complained that a black worker was discriminated against. He is looking for work, Drinnon said.

AT&T strenuously denied being anything other than an exemplary employer with a proven track record for fair and equal treatment of minority employees.

“And we will continue to place a great emphasis on diversity and inclusion,” its statement said.

It noted that 28 percent of AT&T managers are “people of color,” compared with 12 percent in management nationwide. Moreover, women compose 42 percent of its managers, above the average of most Fortune 500 companies, the company said.


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