Heating and cooling company refuses service to ‘colored people’

Posted at 9:03 AM, May 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-01 09:03:29-04

DENVER — A hidden camera investigation by a Denver TV station captured a local business woman refusing to do business in a Denver neighborhood because she says the residents are “colored people” and “they don’t pay their bills.”

The KDVR investigation started with a complaint from an employee at Mile High Heating and Cooling in Westminster who said the company did not service the Denver neighborhood of Montbello. The worker said, “They call it Mount Ghetto,” and they don’t do business there.

The neighborhood just north of Interstate 70 is home to about 31,000 people. The community is mostly Hispanic residents and the average household income is $45,000, just $2,000 less than Denver’s average household income of $47,000.

The hidden camera investigation found the worker’s allegations to be true and that the company’s policy excluding service to what was once a prominently black neighborhood is openly discussed in their office.

The company’s website claims to serve the entire metro Denver area, but KDVR's investigation found Mile High Heating and Cooling does not serve Montbello, one of Denver’s largest neighborhoods.  The heating and cooling company advertised job openings for appointment setters, so the station sent a producer with hidden cameras in.

“The sky is the limit on how much money you can make here. It really is …” Andrea, a manager at Mile High Heating and Cooling, told a producer. “You are being hired to set appointments,” she said.

Then she started teaching our producer how to make cold calls. “Here’s your Tuesday calls.” Under the word Tuesday, the paper said, “Montbello 80239 ‘never call,’" which prompted the producer to ask why.

“Do you know anything about Montbello? …You don’t live there do you? …We call it Mount Ghetto … um colored neighborhood.”   Andrea went on to explain Mile High Heating and Cooling never cold calls Montbello, because, she said, the residents don’t pay their bills.

So, if a Montbello resident calls Mile High Heating and Cooling for service, will they send a technician and a truck?

Long-time Montbello resident and home owner Pam Jiner made a call for a furnace check. The call taker asked for the zip code, and when Jiner gave it, the employee told Jiner a scheduler would call her back within a few minutes. Jiner waited.

WDVR called Mile High Heating and Cooling again and asked for the same $49 service but for a different zip code. They were connected to a dispatcher who booked an appointment immediately. Jiner never got a call back for service.

“It blows my mind. It blows my mind," Jiner said. "Who would do something like that? Single out a race and a community? It is racism, clearly, blatant out right racism."

Her neighbor, Army veteran Duane Topping, agreed. “Those stereotypes are born of ignorance. I’ve grown up with all of these people in this neighborhood, so this is a family. We don’t care how much money you make, we don’t’ care what color you are, we don’t care what religion you are.”

The local ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein watched the hidden camera video and said race-based discrimination policies are against the law.

“There are local ordinances, there are statutes, and there are even federal laws that forbid this kind of discrimination based on race, Silverstein said.

The company issued a statement Thursday afternoon in response to the investigation. It said owner Kevin Dykman was surprised and disappointed by the insensitive comments made by the employee in the video but believes it was an isolated incident and not a reflection of the company.

“We pride ourselves on ensuring a positive and professional work environment for all employees, and our main focus is providing excellent service to our customers. Insensitive comments, or anything that goes against our culture of respect and inclusion, is simply not tolerated,” Dykman said.