New York -- Four former hosts at QVC, all members of
minority groups, have banded together as plaintiffs in a class-action civil lawsuit,
charging the cable home-shopping network with racial discrimination.
The four plaintiffs are Daliza Ramirez-Crane and Victor
Velez, both Hispanic, and Clarence Reynolds and Gwen Owens, both African-American. The
filing amends a lawsuit filed in federal court last year, with Velez as sole plaintiff.
The suit asks for $100 million in damages and, at its core,
alleges that QVC failed to promote qualified and proven minority hosts to the more
lucrative and visible daytime and primetime dayparts.
The plaintiffs claim they were all relegated to the
"graveyard shift," generally appearing in the wee hours of the morning, when
viewership is limited. They also contend that non-minorities are generally assigned the
coveted primetime and daytime slots, after paying their dues for six months in the
overnight dayparts, while minorities remain in unfavorable shifts year after year.
Parent QVC Inc., which is controlled by Comcast Corp.,
responded in a prepared statement: "QVC believes in equal opportunity in the
workplace, and has a number of active programs to enhance the diversity of its workforce
both on and off the air. These allegations have absolutely no merit and QVC will defend
itself vigorously against these baseless and unsubstantiated charges."
Velez characterized QVC's practices regarding the
promotion of on-air talent as "subjective and arbitrary." He began his tenure at
Q2, QVC's companion service, in September of 1995, before uprooting his family and
moving from New York to the company's headquarters in West Chester, Pa., in March
1996. His contract was not renewed in 1997.
Velez said he was told repeatedly that he would be moved to
daytime, and would have the opportunity to launch new products and host celebrity shows.
Those promises were never fulfilled, he claimed, despite his rising popularity marked by
e-mail, cards and letters from viewers.
"I got a letter from a Hispanic woman who said that
she made her son watch me on the air because the only images of Hispanics in the media
were those of drug dealers and gangbangers," said Velez.
Velez said he was occasionally thrown a bone and given a
daytime show or Saturday slot, but not regularly.
Alan Rich, a New York entertainment attorney representing
the four plaintiffs, accused QVC of running a "back-of-the-bus" operation. He
said the company asked Ramirez-Crane, who Rich described as "slightly darkly
complected," to see if she could somehow "lighten her look." This occurred
in the first month of her tenure.
She said she was relegated to the 3 to 6 a.m. shift, which
saddled her with the difficult task of selling the same products every morning.
"It's impossible to develop good sales figures and a good following if
you're showing the same exact products, day after day, to the same people," said
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