Local HRC governors respond to latest development in AT&T NDO claim

A representative from HRC's national office says that allegations against AT&T in San Antonio are unproven.

On October 5, Tonya Pacetti-Perkins, Chad Reumann and Julian Tovar, governors from the San Antonio chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, issued a statement regarding the latest development in a case that alleges AT&T violated the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. The statement read in part:

“On September 22nd, after mediation between Matthew Hileman and AT&T, the telecommunications company officially denied any wrong doing. As Board of Governors of HRC and ambassadors of our  local LGBT community, we take seriously any time a member of our community reports bias or claims of discrimination. While we work with national headquarters to monitor the allegations made by Matthew Hileman against AT&T, we understand that acknowledgment at our local level is critical to the continuing partnership of HRC with its members, allies, and specifically, our transgender community.”

The statement was issued in response to recent news that a spokesman for HRC’s national office said the organization will not lower AT&T’s perfect Corporate Equality Index score because Hileman, the transgender man who brought the nondiscrimination claim against the company, has not been able to prove his case.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for HRC, told Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio, that Hileman’s assertions, that he was subject to a hostile workplace and then fired, are unproven allegations.

Sainz was responding to questions about a petition Hileman started on Change.org asking HRC to lower AT&T’s CEI score because of how they’ve handled his nondiscrimination claim.

“We’re not a position to hold allegations against any company or any individual until they’ve been proven,” Sainz told TPR. “And then we have a responsibility to interact responsibly with that company if those allegations are proven to be correct in order to understand whether or not they would be willing to enter to remedial actions and things of that nature.”

Sainz went on to tell TPR that AT&T was important to HRC because of its “momentum in leading a movement of change across the world for LGBT issues.”

“We see them as a model company, not just for their LGBT employees, but in terms of consistently going to bat for LGBT people, not just in the United States but across the world,” Sainz said. “We have in them a company that has always done the right thing by their employees and in terms of their public actions toward LGBT people.”

“In them we have a proven ally of the LGBT community. It’s just unfortunate that these allegations exist because they’re not in conformance with the company that we have known as a solid partner to our community,” Sainz told TPR.

In their statement, HRC’s local governors sought to outline the challenges of enforcing the NDO, “The complaint filed under San Antonio’s Non-Discrimination ordinance represents a test to the new ordinance, and will demonstrate the work left to be done. The community must take on the responsibility of helping our city build stronger mechanisms and better controls to enforce its intent.”

Joseph Tanasi, co-chair of CAUSA (Community Alliance for a United San Antonio), gave Out In SA the following statement regarding the Hileman case.

“I understand there is a process, to include a legal finding of discrimination, to lower HRC’S Corporate Equality Index for AT&T. This case is still pending so it remains to be seen if that process is necessary or how it may play out. More importantly, these are serious allegations all citizens of San Antonio should be concerned with.

“Matt Hileman is a man who felt his life threatened because of the alleged words and actions of AT&T employees in a work environment and company culture established by AT&T simply because of who he is.

“Personally, I feel if the ‘CEI serves as an advocacy tool upon which employees may leverage and seek accountability from their employers for enacted and explicit non-discrimination protections’ then the petition Hileman turned to seeking to lower AT&T’s CEI score is both just and effective in engaging, educating, and protecting our community and allies. I appreciate and value HRC San Antonio’s presence and commitment to ensuring fairness and equality by working with our community and city in building ‘stronger mechanisms and better controls to enforce’ the NDO and if a legal finding of discrimination is found I expect HRC to work with our community and allies in possibly lowering AT&T’s CEI as a tool for effective remedy.”

Claims of a hostile workplace

Hileman was working for Resource Global Professions in May of 2013 providing information consulting services to AT&T. His work was performed at the AT&T facility on North St. Mary’s Street.

While working at AT&T, Hileman says he overheard fellow employees say they would use violence if they found a trans person in the restroom, he was outed to his co-workers and he came to work one day to find a sign on his chair that had a “no fags” symbol on it.

When he reported these incidents to his supervisors, he was told to not come to work until his claims could be verified. He was never asked to return.

Since January, Hileman has pursued the claim under the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and been hampered by the city’s lack of procedural guidelines for claimants under the new law.

For its part, AT&T says it has investigated Hileman’s claims and found no wrongdoing. The city urged the two parties to try and work it out.

In August, Hileman and his lawyer Justin Nichols met with AT&T’s attorney, Diego Pena, and two other company representatives to discuss Hileman’s claim. The result of that meeting proved fruitless.

On September 5,  Hileman gave the San Antonio Current a recording he says he made while working at AT&T:

“The recordings, which are are not high quality, feature two men discussing the ordinance, which was set to be voted on by City Council the next day. The two men can be heard talking about the men’s bathroom code. ‘You’re in the restroom; we follow the code man.’ They also discuss their thoughts on a transgender man’s body. ‘It would be just be looking more like man boobs, kind of like some fat dude.’ . . One of the men mentions how a transgender man in the men’s restroom might be subject to an ‘ass whooping.'”

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told the Current the recording had “authenticity issues.” In a statement Richter said, “It’s important to note that if Mr. Hileman recorded a conversation between two AT&T employees without their consent or knowledge, he violated the law.”

It is perhaps out of a sense of frustration that Hileman has now turned to the court of public opinion vis-a-vis his Change.org petition where he writes, “This request isn’t casual, but one of serious consequence, so we urge HRC to deeply consider whether AT&T’s conduct is consistent with HRC’s mission . . .”

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