Law360 (November 3, 2020, 1:20 PM EST) -- NBCUniversal has been hit with a race bias suit in New York federal court by a teleprompter operator who said she was given the boot during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic because she's Asian.
Amy Sinavsky, an Asian American who said her five-year tenure with the company came to an abrupt end when she was fired in May, told the court Monday that she was the only full-time technical operator who wasn't given equipment to work from home between March and April, while NBC was transitioning to remote operations. She also said she was the only Asian employee in the department.
She said NBC dodged her repeated requests for the equipment while continuing to dole at-home systems to other department employees, including many she said had less experience than her. She said NBC terminated her in May because she didn't have the requisite tools to work from home.
"Plaintiff's exclusion from access to this equipment cannot be explained by plaintiff's work product or relative value on the team," she argued. "Defendants terminated plaintiff's employment because of her Asian ethnicity."
Sinavsky added that her work was excellent, and "all of the various changing explanations that defendants give to justify her termination are nonsensical, contradictory, and patently pre-textual."
According to the complaint, NBC's vice president of technical operations, Greg Francis, said during a town hall just after she was fired in May that it had only given this equipment to workers who had the skills and could work remotely. Sinavsky said her manager, Christine MacDonald, told her she had given home systems to "who [she] thought would be the right choice for them."
However, Sinavsky said MacDonald later changed her tune and claimed Sinavsky was let go because the department had run out of at-home systems, which Sinavsky said didn't make any sense.
"Considering that the at-home equipment can be purchased over-the-counter at any electronics store, it is clear that defendant NBC's proffered excuse is untenable," she told the court.
The only other employee in the department let go at this time was someone who received the equipment, but didn't have an adequate internet connection at home to get a remote system up and running, Sinavsky said. If NBC's follow-up rationale were true, she could've used the equipment this worker had forfeited, she argued.
"Defendants have offered many different explanations for why they did not provide plaintiff the at-home equipment, and, thus, for why she was fired," Sinavsky said. "Each of these changing rationales do not make sense on their face, and together, are highly suggestive of an improper motive."
Representatives for NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.
Sinavsky is represented by Michael Digiulio and D. Maimon Kirschenbaum of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP.
Counsel information for NBCUniversal was not yet available.
The case is Sinavsky v. NBCUniversal Media LLC d/b/a NBC et al., case number 1:20-cv-09175, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
--Editing by Marygrace Murphy.
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