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TCI faces class-action suit

Two black managers fired by Tele-Communications Inc. have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to block TCI’s acquisition by Bell Atlantic Corp., alleging a pattern of racial discrimination.

Calvin Smiley and Leonie Elizabeth Palumbo, who said they were among the highest-ranking blacks at TCI when they were terminated last fall, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. They allege that TCI has engaged in a widespread “effort to terminate high-level black employees.”

The suit also charges that TCI no longer employs any black top managers in major urban markets and that it limits promotional opportunities for black candidates.

The case was one of three racial-discrimination lawsuits filed against TCI Tuesday by lawyer Stephen L. Snyder. He previously logged another case in which TCI ended up agreeing to a settlement with two black investors in Baltimore valued at an estimated $ 100 million in stock and cash. The complaints follow similar criticisms leveled against TCI by the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens, which have accused TCI of being “the worst discriminator in the telecommunications industry.”

TCI’s lawyer, Vincent Cohen of the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson, dismissed all of the allegations in the three suits as false. He said any terminations or other matters raised in the complaints weren’t race-related and that the suits “don’t trouble us. They’ll be dismissed in 90 days.”

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