In a lawsuit filed by former employee Mark Venson, Momentum Solar is accused of “engaging in systemic discrimination against black workers, fostering a racially hostile work environment and retaliating against black employees who filed discrimination complaints”.
In the lawsuit, Venson alleges that, over the course of his employment with the company’s New Jersey Call center from April 2018 to April 2019, he was subjected to vile racial discrimination at the hands of his white coworkers, namely his manager, Defendant Brian Alper. The suit alleges Alper “relentlessly” referred to Venson as the n-word and “boy” while also witholding wages from overtime work that Venson completed. Moreover, when Venson attempted to stand up to Alper, the manager told him:
“F*** you. I am the manager. If you don’t like what I do, then quit.”
These are not the first allegations of racial discrimination brought against Momentum Solar, even this year. Venson’s allegations closely mirror those of six former black employees who worked for Momentum Solar in its New York field installation department. Those former employees also allege being called the n-word by their white coworkers and managers.
When those employees attempted to address the issue to their manager, Dave Wightman, Wightman allegedly referred to the allegations of racism raised as “bulls***” and mocked the employees by sending them black-skinned emojis, before ultimately sending a GIF of a group of white-hooded men, in reference to the Ku Klux Klan, with the caption “We ready or what?”
To add to the nature of systemic racism Momentum is accused of, Venson also alleges that other black employees were referred to as “boy,” kid” and the n-word, as well as being subjected to intimidation whenever they addressed or questioned the behavior.
pv magazine USA has reached out to Momentum Solar for comment, but has not received a response as of time of publication.
These allegations are in stark contrast to Momentum’s recent awarding as one of the “best workplaces” in the United States by Inc. Magazine.
These allegations, are unfortunately nothing new within the solar industry. Last year, former Vivint employee Teshawn Solomon sued the company also alleging that he was called the n-word by non-black coworkers, as well as being subjected to other forms of verbal and physical racial discrimination.
The lack of racial diversity in the solar industry is well documented, with the NAACP and VoteSolar releasing an op-ed highlighting the issue and outlining steps that solar companies can take to address it.
Moreover, 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.”
However, it would appear that the industry is in need of a focus-shift of sorts. While it is certainly important to ensure that the industry maintains diversity among its workforce, it is equally important to ensure that a basic level of respect and a safe workspace is given to these workers once they’re employed.
While the actions of a few do not define the attitudes of an entire industry, when there are multiple lawsuits filed annually recounting the same disgusting behavior, something has to change.