The U.S. government has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Fanatics Retail Group, the global sports merchandise company led by billionaire and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin.
Filed Tuesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal complaint accuses the company of harassing and retaliating against a longtime employee because he is black — and favoring white employees over black employees because of their race.
“If you’re white, and they consider you one of their own, you can do no wrong … Sadly, if you are minority, you are treated like uneducated slave labor,” said a former operations administrator quoted in the lawsuit.
Vincent Perkins — who has worked at the company’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, since 2012 — alleges in the suit that he was called the N-word on his first day of work and lost a promotion because he complained about workplace discrimination. After that, Perkins said, he was harassed as part of an effort to get him to quit.
Kristen Foslid, a senior trial attorney with the EEOC, called Perkins’ allegations of contending with a hostile work environment “egregious.”
In a statement, a Fanatics spokesman said the company is “committed to treating all employees fairly and takes complaints like this very seriously. We deny any wrongdoing and look forward to vigorously defending these claims in court. As the company does not discuss pending litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”
Rubin declined a request for comment.
Perkins is seeking monetary damages for the “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation and/or physical damages” caused by the allegations.
Prosecutors are seeking several years’ worth of back pay based on the salary bump Perkins lost out on because he wasn’t promoted to supervisor.
“The difference in what he made versus what he would be making if he had gotten the promotion,” said Foslid.
The EEOC also wants Fanatics to implement policies, practices and programs aimed at providing equal employment opportunities for black employees.
Fanatics runs the online stores for the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, as well as NASCAR and the PGA Tour.
The company also does business with a long list of professional U.S. sports teams and more than 200 colleges.
The company’s website lists all of Philadelphia’s major sports teams – the Eagles, 76ers, Phillies, and Flyers — as clients.