LEHI — Four former employees of Vivint Smart Home filed lawsuits in mid-October alleging incidents of a hostile and racist workplace, in some ways mirroring complaints that surfaced in June against its sister company, Vivint Solar.
While the two companies are independent business entities by structure, both are owned or controlled by New York private equity firm Blackstone Group and both grew out of APX Alarm, a company founded in Provo in 1999 by Keith Nellesen and Todd Pedersen. And, per a post on Vivint Smart Home's website from January 2017, the two companies have "a strategic partnership."
The complaints against Vivint Smart Home, filed in Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, include allegations of workplace racial harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and racial discrimination. All four complainants are men and self-identify as African-American or Latino.
One plaintiff, Christopher Brown, said he began working as a sales representative for Vivint Smart Home in June and alleges that soon after he arrived in California to begin work, he was subjected to racist comments from his supervisor. Brown claims his supervisor used the N-word, frequently asked him questions with prompts like "Do black people normally … ?" and "How do black people … ?"
Brown's complaint also claims his supervisor posted a video of an African-American family's home to a Vivint Smart Home employee group Snapchat that included footage of an infant only wearing a diaper and a television playing rap music, with a caption that read, "do you think they'll pass credit?"
In August, according to the court filing, Brown filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and shortly after spoke with a Vivint Smart Home human resources employee about the complaint. About a month later, Brown said he got an email from the company's human resources office indicating they "received statements from all parties involved and have taken the necessary steps to discipline and train the offenders mentioned in your complaint." Brown goes on to claim that his supervisor is still employed by Vivint Smart Home and believes that "no disciplinary action was taken for any of the conduct" he described in his complaint.
The other complaints include allegations of racist slurs, images and videos posted to a GroupMe chat hosted by a Vivint Smart Home employee called "Victory Leadership Group" that included dozens of employee participants; greeting cards shared among employees with racist commentary; and a comment from another company supervisor that described a "Mexican shower" as "That's just where you spray yourself from head to toe with cologne."
The other three complainants are Andrew Kirchner, Terence Major and Vaaron Watts.
Attorney Corey Bennett represents all four plaintiffs in the Vivint Smart Home filings, as well as two plaintiffs in lawsuits filed this summer against Vivint Solar. Bennett said he didn't want to jump to conclusions in comparing the allegations against Vivint Solar with those made against Vivint Smart Home, but said the behaviors described by complainants is very similar.2 comments on this story
"What we have … are people freely using racist language and innuendo in a way that appears that they think they're allowed to," Bennett said. "The common thread is there appears to be license … for white people at these companies to say what they want without repercussion."
Vivint Smart Home shared the following response to a Deseret News request for comment:
"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."