Telecom firm AT&T Inc. said Tuesday it fired Aaron Slator, the company's president of content and advertising sales, for allegedly using his work phone to send out racially discriminatory images. Slator has become the subject of a $100 million discrimination lawsuit, which was filed Monday by an employee, Knoyme King, a 50-year-old black woman.
The case was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and named Slator, AT&T, CEO Randall Stephenson, other executives and board member Joyce Roche, as defendants, the Associated Press reported. Slator managed budget for the Dallas-based firm's content acquisition.
One of the images found on Slator's phone showed an African child dancing, alongside a caption that read: “It's Friday N*****." Slator had reportedly sent the picture in a text message, referring to it as an "oldie but a goodie.” The photographs were found on his phone by an assistant who was told to transfer data to a new phone, the AP reported, citing the lawsuit.
The company said, in a statement, according to the AP: "There is no place for demeaning behavior within AT&T, and we regret the action was not taken earlier.”
King also said she was held back from promotions as the company favored less qualified and “non-African American” employees, the Daily Mail reported, citing the lawsuit. She alleged she was subjected to a campaign of harassment just because she was close to Slator’s assistant who found the images. The lawsuit comes as the company faces a $10 billion claim, which states that AT&T discriminates when it contracts with 100 percent-owned African-American media.
"Slator harbors obvious and deep-seated racial animus toward African Americans," the lawsuit said, according to the New York Daily News, adding: "Slator's decisions regarding hiring, firing, promotions and raises are infected by his racism."
The lawsuit also said, according to the Daily Mail: “The appropriate reaction - the morally responsible and legally required one - would have been for AT&T to take steps to remedy this past, and to prevent future, racism by its top television content executive,” adding: “AT&T did not do this. Instead, AT&T's engaged in an illegal cover-up, to ensure that its racism remained hidden-even at the expense of long-term, loyal African American employees.”
King's lawyer Louis (Skip) Miller said that Slator’s termination from the company will not affect the lawsuit. "If anything, it's an admission of liability. It proves we're right, that it all happened. ... The issues in this case are age, race and gender discrimination, and they don't stop with Aaron Slator. These images and issues were reported a year and a half ago, and the company swept them under the rug,” he told the New York Daily News.