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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


A class-action lawsuit claiming racial discrimination was filed against Southern Energy’s parent company and sister companies last Friday in Georgia.
Three African-American employees of Georgia Power claim that the company and its owner, Southern Company along with Southern Company Services discriminated against black employees by fostering a hostile workplace and "moving the goalposts" when considering promotions.
Southern Company is the parent company of Southern Energy, the firm seeking to purchase 80 percent of the V.I. Water and Power Authority for approximately $400 million. Southern Energy is not named in the suit, said the Atlanta-based attorney representing the employees, Michael Terry. He did say it is possible that Southern Energy could be added to the suit in the future, but couldn’t say if that would occur.
"I can’t add anything," Terry said. "Our clients are from and are focusing on Southern Company and Georgia Power."
Southern Energy is a subsidiary of Southern Company and holds the assets of the parent company that are outside the South Eastern section of the U.S., said Southern Energy spokesman Chuck Griffin. Whatever the relationship, Griffin said neither Southern Energy or Southern Company condone discrimination.
"Southern Company in general will not tolerate harassment or discrimination in any case," he said, adding that the company has "launched a full-scale investigation" into the allegations.
The lawsuit, however, paints a different picture of how Southern Company’s Georgia Power operates. The plaintiffs claim that they were harmed by the company’s "reckless indifference to a workplace environment that breeds racial animus and subjects African-American employees to insults, hostility and harassment."
Examples alleged by the plaintiffs include management permitting a hangman’s noose to be hung in Georgia Power’s operating headquarters and the use of derogatory terms aimed at African-Americans.
The suit also claims that despite African-Americans making up 19 percent of Georgia Power’s workforce, only 22 of the company’s top 408 employees were black and that 83 of the 1,602 African-American employees held managerial or supervisory jobs.
The dearth of blacks in upper management and supervisory positions is due to a "glass ceiling" that has been in place for the last seven years. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that African-American employees are also kept from promotions when management moves the "goalposts" by changing job requirements.

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