Lawsuit Alleges Indiana Bell Wrongfully Terminated Longtime Employee for Attempting to Report Suspicions of Racial Discrimination
Indianapolis, Indiana ( PR Submission Site ) July 12, 2018 – A former employee of Indiana Bell Telephone Company Inc., accused the company of wrongful termination, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for attempting to report suspected racial discrimination. Chris Fillmore says the subsidiary of telecommunications giant AT&T penalized him under the pretense of “protracted performance deficiencies,” and suspended him pending termination just a week after having served an earlier suspension.
In court records, Indiana Bell states that “Mr. Fillmore’s supervisors … extended [him] a life raft, giving him another final warning and three-day suspension instead of moving toward termination, the next step of progressive discipline. Mr. Fillmore made nothing of the opportunity. He thereafter violated the Technician Guidelines three times in just two weeks.” (The timing was actually one week, as noted; just one of the many ways they’ve subtly tried to mitigate culpability.) Fillmore contends both the merits of the actuating disciplinary action and the methods in which it was affected; and further states that the so-called “protracted performance deficiencies” stem from the very same person who he intended on reporting to upper management.
Fillmore, an African American, was employed as an installer for the company in Indianapolis, Ind., from September 2007 until February 2015. He claims that he was a high-performing employee for over seven years “of which contained passing annual reviews, positive customer feedback, company awards, and, most importantly, no disciplinary actions of this scope from any predecessors.” It wasn’t until February 2014, under this new supervisor, who is Caucasian, when he states that his performance began to decline.
“My story begins on January 27, 2015. After enduring months of heightened random inspections, discipline for things such as “not being in the morning meetings,” and having just served yet another suspension – all at the hands of my supervisor – I attempted to make complaint of long-held suspicions of his actions. Specifically, regarding his disparate enforcement of the rules. I was extremely apprehensive and unsure of what would happen, given mostly by the fact that they were only suspicions. But I thought I would at least be safe from further harm. Boy, was I wrong…
“Firstly, through the course of the conversation between myself and the person to whom I complained, I determined that they weren’t having a particularly good day, as they, themselves, anticipated being reprimanded by their supervisor. Thus, I was admonished and quickly dismissed from this informal meeting of ours (hence, my ‘attempted’ complaint), leaving me in a hopeless and vulnerable position of some form of retaliation if he caught wind of my complaint.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next, however. Approximately one week later, on February 3, 2015, I was then called into an ‘investigative’ meeting, where I was made to face a laundry list of violations I was alleged to have committed in the preceding days. Coincidentally, and to my surprise, this meeting was administered by the very same person to whom I complained. After the shock wore off, I quickly surmised that over the previous days, I was surveilled by them for the express purpose of being suspended, yet again!
“With no opportunity given to refute the allegations – as I was being admonished alongside being accused – I was further advised that, based on the violations (many of which were innocuous and, at best, minor in severity), I was being suspended indefinitely with the ‘guarantee of termination.’ To my utter shock and horror, I was made to turn over company assets and subsequently escorted off the property.”
Without the resources to retain an attorney, Fillmore has had to try his case pro se (“on his own behalf”) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Unfortunately, this ultimately resulted in the court ruling in favor of Indiana Bell (however, “not for lack of trying,” opposing counsel would concede). Undeterred, Fillmore has appealed to the Seventh Circuit, and the case is now pending.
“I just want to show the court, if I can, that, in essence, I had become the subordinate of a new supervisor (who happens to be white) and we did not hit it off. Then, over the next few months, my relatively benign work history began to suffer. During which, I tried to discover why he was riding me (and others like me) so hard. After a bit of personal course-correcting (to no avail) and considering every other possibility but race, I inevitably circled back to what my intuition had been telling me from the beginning. I guess by the time I told someone, too much damage had been done. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away from the person who created such, and their alleged intentions.
“As much as I hate ‘playing the race card,’ I would be remiss not to believe that there aren’t situations, in this current era, which warrant such an examination based on that exact premise; especially with examples that seem to pop up in the news every day. That was my intention on January 27, 2015: to explore if this was indeed an issue based on race. If so, then I would’ve demanded to be removed from under his supervision and perhaps have him take some form of training on implicit bias.
“Instead of relying on my employer (more specifically, my next-level manager) to investigate such claims, according to even their own EEO policy, I became more victimized, my vulnerable position within the organization was exploited, and the truth of the matter was never to be revealed. In the end, he has been insulated from any form of inquiry, and here I am, three years on, fighting to get my job back; or, at the very least, attain some form of personal and professional vindication.”