NY suit: Ex-NBC staffer harassed over his heritage

AP News
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Posted: Aug 05, 2011 8:59 PM
NY suit: Ex-NBC staffer harassed over his heritage

Workers at NBC maligned a Native American colleague about his heritage by taunting him with a doll in traditional dress and making insulting comparisons to him, he said in a lawsuit Friday.

Former studio technician Faruq "Peter" Wells sued NBC Universal and some employees, saying he was ultimately forced to quit because of the employees' behavior and the company's inaction.

"They told him nothing was coming of this, just go back to work" alongside the same people, said Wells' lawyer, Matthew Blit.

But NBC Universal said it had indeed acted on his July 2009 complaint.

"The company conducted a thorough, independent investigation and disciplined employees who behaved inappropriately," and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reviewed the matter and declined to take further action, the company said in a statement.

"We believe that NBC Universal took appropriate actions and the lawsuit is without merit," the company added. EEOC representatives didn't immediately respond to an email Friday evening.

When Wells returned from a July 2009 vacation, a co-worker pointed out the doll on another colleague's desk, and colleagues showed him photos of the doll hanging by a noose-like string and labeled "Baby Wells," the lawsuit said.

Later that day, a worker lobbed the doll at Wells, described it as "your long-lost daughter," plopped it on his desk and said, "Look, it's got your DNA, skin color, and you both have the same hair. It's braided, just like yours," according to the lawsuit.

He alerted supervisors and human-resources officials, who told him the next month that the company had investigated, the matter was closed and he should get back to work and never speak of it, the lawsuit said. He left in August 2009 after about three years with the company, his lawyer said.

Wells has since done temporary work, but he's been unable to find a permanent job, Blit said.

He's seeking reinstatement to his job and unspecified damages.

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Jennifer Peltz can be reached at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz