Contractors Sue Ops, Claiming Bias

Three minority-owned contractors in Atlanta have sued AT&T Broadband and its predecessor company, MediaOne Group Inc., alleging racial discrimination, breach of contract and fraud.

Each plaintiff — Access Control and Telecommunications and its president, Roy Daniels; Jangarr Communications and its founder/president, Gary Rogers; and Superb Connection — alleged that the MSO applied different working standards to its technicians than were applied to those from white-owned firms.

According to lawsuits filed earlier this month in the Atlanta division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the firms answered a MediaOne request for proposals issued in 1998.

Each company was awarded a one-year contract to work for the operator, with the promise of extensions. But none of the contractors served more than a few months.

In the separate suits, each company claims that it assumed the expense of hiring and training technicians to satisfy an anticipated workload based on the contract awards.

The firms also purchased support services. In its suit, ACT said bought and installed computers, then invested in software to integrate with MediaOne's systems.

But when the firms were ready to work, MediaOne imposed onerous conditions, such as signing set-tops out to the technicians one at a time. Contract workers were required to return to the dispatch center between each job and submit collections.

The workload was also erratic, which caused the firms to lose trained technicians.

After only a few months, the contractors were dismissed because "there was no work" —though the plaintiffs assert that the cable company assigned jobs to other contractors that were not minority-owned.

AT&T Broadband spokesman Reg Griffin said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.