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Fired Hawks worker sues, claims discrimination against white employees

A fired Atlanta Hawks employee is suing the organization, alleging it discriminated against white employees and terminated her when she complained. 

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Margo Kline says Hawks external affairs director David Lee, who is black, promoted a culture of discrimination against white people, especially white women. Kline, who is white, worked in the NBA team’s corporate social responsibility department as a community development coordinator for five years.

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Kline alleges that Lee was dismissive and exclusionary toward white employees and would often make jokes about “white culture,” hiring and promoting black employees — who Kline said were less qualified — over white people, according to the lawsuit. 

Kline said the organization ignored her complaints and instead unfairly scrutinized her work and impeded her ability to do her job, often gossiping and ridiculing her. The lawsuit also alleges white coworkers were told not to speak with Kline or they could lose their job. 

The Hawks fired Kline in March 2017, three weeks after a final written warning regarding her conduct and performance, according to the lawsuit. Kline, who said she had never been written up before, claims she repeatedly asked for ways she could improve but was ignored.  

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Kline filed an employment discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who gave her a notice of her right to sue in December. 

She is asking for punitive damages and a trial jury. 

In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Hawks said: “We take all claims of discrimination seriously and have performed a thorough review of these baseless claims. The case was quickly dismissed at the EEOC level. We deny these claims and will vigorously defend against them.”

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