SALT LAKE CITY — Four former Vivint Smart Home employees have filed racial harassment complaints against the Provo-based company, just months after two former Vivint Solar employees filed similar lawsuits in June.
The four men, who all identify as black or Latino, filed lawsuits in mid-October in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles claiming racial harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and racial discrimination by co-workers, according to court documents.
The complaints come just four months after two men, one white and the other black, leveled allegations of a racist and hostile work environment at a Vivint Solar office in California after a supervisor and other workers reportedly assembled a cardboard “fort” in the warehouse and spray-painted “white only” on the outside.
While Vivint Solar and Vivint Smart Home are two separate entities, both are controlled by the same private equity firm in New York and both grew out of APX Alarm — a Provo company founded nearly 20 years ago. The two also have “a strategic partnership,” according to a post on Vivint Smart Home’s website.
“It sounds like there’s a real cultural problem in Vivint Smart Home and Vivint Solar,” said Corey Bennett, a California attorney from the San Francisco office of Matern Law Group who represents all four Vivint Smart Home employees, as well as the two Vivint Solar employees.
One of the plaintiffs, Christopher Brown, claimed that shortly after he arrived in California to start work as a sales representative for Vivint Smart Home his supervisor began using the “n-word” and making racists comments like describing “how ghetto” black people were in his neighborhoods and asking things like, “Do black people normally …?” or “How do black people …?”, according to the court documents.
The lawsuit also alleges that Brown's supervisor once said, “Stay focused in school, because if you get distracted by drugs, it will postpone everything for who knows how long. Ask Chris!” Brown and a co-worker were “astonished” the supervisor would suggest that Brown would know that because he was black, court documents state.
The same supervisor also posted a Snapchat video from inside the home of a black family. The video showed a baby in a diaper and rap music playing on TV and included the caption, “Do you think they’ll pass credit?”, according to court documents. Those hoping to purchase Vivint Smart Home products often have to have a certain credit score to qualify to purchase them.
Brown filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August, then spoke with the human resources department in the company. A month later, Brown got an email from the office saying that they had "received statements from all parties involved and have taken the necessary steps to discipline and train the offenders mentioned in your complaint," according to court documents.
“If a company takes a complaint seriously from the moment that it’s made and takes whatever appropriate disciplinary action it deems, which could include suspension, firing, organizing some sort of harassment or disciplinary training, that can help sort of mitigate the damage but … not necessarily eliminate,” Bennett said.
Bennett is fairly certain, however, that Brown’s supervisor is still employed with the company, and Brown claims no disciplinary action was taken, though he has since left the company and returned to the place he had left before moving to California to work for Vivint.
“He wasn’t able to work, to get his license when he had to leave the hostile environment,” Bennett said. “So from our perspective, whatever discipline has occurred, it wasn’t sufficient.”
The other complainants, including Andrew Kirchner, Terence Major and Vaaron Watts, claim that racist slurs, images and videos were posted to a GroupMe chat hosted by a Vivint Smart Home employee, including one comment that said a “Mexican shower” is “when you spray yourself from head to toe with cologne,” court documents state.
Vivint Smart Home told the Deseret News earlier in November that, "It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation or personnel matters. Vivint does not tolerate any kind of discrimination. We take these types of allegations seriously and are investigating them."