Comcast executive sues company alleging anti-gay discrimination

A senior vice president at the media giant claimed he was denied equal pay and passed over for promotions due to his sexual orientation.
By Gwen Aviles

A senior executive at Comcast Corp. alleges that during his 18-year tenure at the company, he was routinely discriminated against because of his sexual orientation, despite serving as a public face for the media giant’s diversity efforts.

In a 45-page federal lawsuit filed last week, Klayton Fennell, the company’s senior vice president of government affairs, claims that he was denied equal pay, passed over for promotions and called a derogatory name by an unnamed colleague due to his sexuality. He also alleges that he was retaliated against after he filed a discrimination complaint against the company last year with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"Fennell is one of the highest-ranking out, gay employee in Defendants’ organization and is routinely perceived as not conforming to traditional sex and/or gender based-stereotypes,” the suit states. “As a result, despite his strong performance on Defendants’ behalf, he has, throughout his employment been subjected to discriminatory conduct, resulting in a hostile work environment. Defendants have also consistent paid Plaintiff substantially less than his heterosexual, male peers…”

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Fennell, who has worked for Comcast since 2001, claims that throughout the years of alleged discrimination, his employer presented him as “an example of their non-discriminatory or ‘inclusive’ environment in an effort to bolster their public image and further their business as a media company.” Yet, he alleges there was a discrepancy between his role as a public LGBTQ liaison and the way he was valued within the company. As an example, the suit states that when Fennell was recognized as a “Top LGBT Leader in Business” by the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2015, Comcast “did not sponsor the recognition or communicate the recognition to other employees.”

Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, denied Fennell’s discrimination claims.

“At no time during Klay Fennell’s long career at Comcast has he been discriminated against or been the subject of wrongful treatment,” the company wrote in an email. “Comcast has a longstanding commitment to the LGBTQ community and has been widely recognized for its inclusive culture.”

“Klay has worked at Comcast for more than 18 years, and we promoted him to the job of Senior Vice President more than four years ago, one of our highest roles in our Cable division,” the statement continued. “We also have supported him for many years and provided a platform for him to have a positive influence on LGBTQ initiatives both inside the company and in the communities we serve. We will vigorously defend ourselves against these claims in court.”

Fennell and his lawyer, Katherine Oeltjen, an attorney with Console Mattiacci Law, declined NBC News’ request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Fennell is seeking compensatory damages for, among other things, emotional upset, mental anguish and humiliation.

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