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Major AT&T Project Could Be In Jeopardy If Company Violated NDO

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Dist. 1 Councilman Diego Bernal emphasizes a point during the NDO debate and vote last year.

Tensions are mounting with the first complaint filed since San Antonio's revised non-discrimination ordinance passed last year.

Previously TPR reported that AT&T contract employee Matt Hileman, a transgender man, found a derogatory note about him at work and overheard co-workers threatening to harm him.

The city is now putting pressure on AT&T to come up with documentation in the case and determine an outcome because the company has an important contract with the city that could be put in jeopardy.

San Antonio city attorneys want AT&T to come to a resolution. In a letter to AT&T Tuesday, city attorneys outline eight items for request from AT&T, including its own investigation into the allegations of discrimination that may have violated the NDO and any findings by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The city points out that AT&T signed a high-profile contract with San Antonio since the NDO passed, and is subject to the terms of the ordinance. The contract is a master lease agreement to let the company install network huts on city property for possible deployment of a fiber network system. Google's exploring the very same idea. With a pending complaint and AT&T's possible violation of the ordinance, the project could be at risk.

Hileman's attorney, Justin Nichols, said although no case in Texas has ever been prosecuted under a non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, he said his client's case is verifiable.

"It's challenging, it's a good debate, it's very -- there's a lot of political capital in standing up for equality," Nichols said. "But actually making equality happen through giving the NDO not only ink on the page but actually teeth in the city's mouth is very important."

For the first time, Hileman talked about his case with TPR.

"It's been really, really hard," he said Thursday sitting across from Nichols at his office in downtown San Antonio. "My wife and I, we were looking at leaving San Antonio. I've lived here since '94. I love it here but I just couldn't handle it."

"It's been really, really hard. My wife and I, we were looking at leaving San Antonio. I've lived here since '94. I love it here but I just couldn't handle it."

Hileman said his journey hasn't been an easy one. After leaving communications giant AT&T and the company that hired him for contract services there, RGP Consulting, he headed for work out of state. Doctors think the stress led to seizures and he eventually came back home.

He then worked in Austin but he can't drive long distances anymore. Now he's working in the Alamo City again. But his non-discrimination claim that took place during the time the ordinance passed last September is far from over.

"I want people to know that I think that you can see this isn't, it's not going to go away," Hileman said.

The case has spanned eight months, out of the total 10 months the NDO has been in place in San Antonio.

In TPR's previous story, AT&T maintained its position as a leader among top employers for LGBT employees and said that the company makes diversity and inclusion a priority. City attorneys believe AT&T will cooperate with its 15-day deadline to receive the documents requested.

They also suggested that they meet with Hileman to bring resolution to the complaint.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.