Former Comcast worker claiming lewd culture launches online petition

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Former Comcast Corp. employee Rylinda Rhodes has launched a petition on coworker.org, claiming a culture of sexual harassment at the cable company's call centers.

A former Comcast Corp. call-center employee who filed a lawsuit claiming a sexually hostile workplace has launched a petition on the activist site coworker.org that, by Friday, had garnered more than 4,000 signatures, according to the group’s website.

Rylinda Rhodes, who worked at Comcast call centers in Washington and Maryland between 2007 and 2012, claimed in her 2014 federal lawsuit that her male coworkers directed lewd sexual language toward her and there were incidents of being touched on her breasts. When she brought the behavior to the attention of human resources, she felt that the company’s managers retaliated against her.

This is just the latest #metoo moment for the Philadelphia cable and entertainment conglomerate.

Jezebel, an online fashion and women’s issues publication, reported Thursday on the petition and an five additional women in Colorado, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia who also claimed inappropriate sex-related behavior such as male coworkers making them uncomfortable hugging them, commenting on their bodies, discussing sex lives, and one supervisor asking an female employee for her lingerie size.

“The culture of sexual harassment at the Comcast call centers I worked at was pervasive and difficult to escape. I felt constant fear and anxiety around certain male colleagues, and would try to avoid and limit contact if possible,” Rhodes said in her petition. She was not available for comment by email and her attorney did not return a call. Rhodes, who earned $32,000 a year, is seeking $2 million, according to court documents.

Comcast could not comment on Rhodes because the case is being litigated.

The company says it investigates all sexual harassment complaints and that its employees participated in antiharassment training in 2017. They will have refresher courses on the topic this year. Some of the allegations in Jezebel article dated back a decade and the complaints could not be found. Another incident was not reported to Comcast. In the Tennessee incident, Comcast investigated the claim and dismissed the supervisor.

Comcast employees can report harassment complaints anonymously on the “Comcast Listens” hotline and portal, the company says.

“Sexual harassment, or harassment of any kind, is not tolerated at Comcast,” spokeswoman Jennifer Moyer said. “The company was founded on a foundation of respect, integrity, and trust. We have strong policies against sexual and other forms of harassment and encourage employees to report any harassing behavior. Any allegation of harassment is taken very seriously.”

There has been heightened awareness of sexual harassment after the publication of stories in 2017 on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct with movie actresses, with the #metoo movement toppling powerful media, Hollywood and political figures. Comcast-owned NBC fired Today anchor Matt Lauer after several woman last year came forward claiming sexual misconduct by the high-profile TV personality.