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Author: Patrick McGeehan  Published: May 6, 2019  New York Times

Federal District Court in Brooklyn, where the suit was filed.CreditCreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

The company seemed like a model for the modern economy. It was growing so fast in the clean-energy field that New Jersey awarded it $7.2 million in tax incentives to keep adding jobs installing solar panels.

But six black men who worked for the company, Momentum Solar, painted a far different picture: They contend that the managers of its operation on Long Island fostered a racially hostile work environment and fired employees who complained about it.

The managers made frequent use of racist slurs, routinely called black men “boy” and paid them less than white workers, a lawsuit filed on Monday alleged.

The suit, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, seeks class-action status on behalf of all employees who worked out of the company’s warehouse in Plainview, N.Y. It accused the company’s managers of engaging in systemic discrimination against black workers and retaliating against those who filed complaints.

The company responded that there was “no basis in law or fact for the claims” asserted in the suit.

“The six disgruntled former hourly employees were terminated for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons including unacceptable workplace behavior, fighting, poor performance, failure to show up for work and violations of material company policies and procedures,” a statement from an outside lawyer for the company said. “The company intends to vigorously defend all claims.”

Momentum Solar, which is based in Metuchen, N.J., claims to be one of the fastest-growing companies in its industry, with more than 1,200 employees across the country. Last year, it received $7.2 million in tax incentives from New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority for its plan to add more than 150 jobs over three years.

The state’s tax-incentive programs have come under scrutiny after recent revelations by The New York Times that tax breaks were awarded to politically connected companies, though Momentum was not one of the firms cited in the The Times report.