Vivint Solar has taken action against the employees outlined in the harassment and racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former employee, Teshawn Solomon, according to a statement given to pv magazine.
Solomon began working for Vivint in February 2017 as a temporary warehouse specialist, and was hired on full-time before leaving the company on March 30. He was one of two African-American employees at a location in Central California, and during his employment Solomon alleges he was subjected to multiple instances of racist harassment and discrimination by his coworkers and supervisors.
Legal filings detail these instances, which include being referred to as a form of the n-word by a non-African-American supervisor, being told to “reach his black hands out” by a non-African-American supervisor who was handing him a box, the same supervisor offering him a banana and saying “monkeys like bananas,” and discovering a fort constructed by defendant Joshua Lane and other coworkers with “White only” spray painted on the front. When Solomon brought up the fort to another defendant in the case, regional manager Daniel Alanis, he felt that his complaint was ignored, and he alleges that the fort remained for an additional two weeks.
On June 11, Solomon and his legal representation, Matern Law Group, filed a demand for trial by jury, against Vivint Solar, Alanis and Lane.
Vivint CEO David Bywater released a statement regarding the lawsuit, stating:
I am deeply disturbed by these allegations, which our executive team first became aware of on Monday, June 10, 2018, when the lawsuit detailing his experiences was publicly filed.
I want to firmly state that Vivint Solar has a zero-tolerance policy for racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Our company is built on the strength of diversity. 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.
As a result of these accusations, we are holding people accountable and taking decisive action.
Vivint specified the actions taken to pv magazine, which included several employees were disciplined and one, unnamed employee being terminated after the completion of an internal investigation.
Furthermore, Vivint will complete a company-wide harassment and discrimination training, something it has done previously, but for which it obviously sees a greater need now. Vivint will also undergo a third-party review of company policies and procedures related to the issues raised by the allegations.
pv magazine also reached out to Solomon’s attorney, Corey Bennett, who provided the following statement:
Throughout his employment with Vivint Solar, Teshawn Solomon, a 36-year-old African-American father of four, was subjected to racist abuse that forced him to choose between a dehumanizing work environment and unemployment. When employees are emboldened to construct a white pride playhouse in plain sight, it is because the culture allowed it; it is because a host of prior incidents went ignored or unchallenged. Matern Law Group is proud to stand with Mr. Solomon to demand justice for him and accountability for the culprits.
This case comes as the solar industry comes under increasing scrutiny for a lack of diversity, including from voices inside the industry. Last month, the NAACP and VoteSolar released an op-ed highlighting the issue and outlining steps that solar companies can take to address it.
These concerns are not new. In an interview conducted shortly after she was appointed in early 2017, SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper identified this issue as a priority. “I feel really strongly about ensuring the diversification of our workforce,” Hopper told pv magazine. “We employ over 200,000 folks in the solar industry, and making sure that this looks like our population is a big priority for me.”
This lack of diversity shows in data. The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Job Census, shows that while the industry employs more Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Veteran workers than the national average, the industry employs African-American workers at almost half the rate of the national rate – 6%, compared to 12%. Additionally, women are under-represented, making up 27% of the solar workforce, compared to 49% of employees in all industries. 55-years-or-older workers were also just under half the national rate – 11%, compared to 23%.
If there is any silver lining to this story, we hope that the abhorrent harassment faced by Solomon could help to spark some oft-called-for change in the solar industry.