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Comcast sued by customer who claims company got him fired

After complaining about his Comcast service, Conal O'Rourke claims the cable giant contacted his boss and got him fired.

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Comcast is now being sued by an unhappy customer who claims the company got him fired. Hezakya Mixologist/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Last week, I wrote about the story of Conal O'Rourke. After a year of being dissatisfied with his Comcast service and persistently complaining to the company, O'Rourke was fired by his employer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which provides consultancy services to Comcast.

O'Rourke claims Comcast discovered where he worked by performing a Google search and contacted his bosses, who then launched an ethics investigation against him. After that, he was fired.

Comcast apologized for the poor service, but claimed the company had nothing to do with his firing. Now it may have to prove that in court. For O'Rourke's lawyers, the Dhillon Law Group, yesterday filed suit.

The suit doesn't merely have Comcast as a defendant, but also Lawrence Salva, Comcast's controller. O'Rourke claims he contacted Salva's office to heighten the level of his complaints.

O'Rourke says he didn't speak to Salva personally, but according to the lawsuit, claims he mentioned in calls to Salva's office to complain about being persistently overcharged that Comcast's accounting systems needed radical improvement. He also expressed the view that its billing practices should be subject to a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board investigation.

The complaint says: "Within an hour after this second call, Mr. Salva personally called Joe Atkinson, a principal at Mr. O'Rourke's employer, PWC. Because Comcast pays more than$30 million a year to PWC for consulting services, Mr. Atkinson took the call. Salva demanded that Mr. O'Rourke be fired from PWC, falsely claiming that Mr. O'Rourke had violated accounting ethics standards by using PWC's name as 'leverage' in his 'negotiations' with Comcast."

O'Rourke's lawsuit says he found out about the call like this: "Less than an hour after Mr. O'Rourke's second call with Comcast's Controller's office, Mr. O'Rourke received a call from Mr. Atkinson. Mr. O'Rourke was shocked to receive the call -- he had never before had occasion to deal with Mr. Atkinson. An angry Atkinson informed Mr. O'Rourke that he had received a call from Comcast's Controller about Mr. O'Rourke. Mr. Atkinson told Mr. O'Rourke that the client was very angry, very valuable, was in fact the Philadelphia office's largest client with billings exceeding $30 million per year, and that Mr. O'Rourke was not to speak with anyone from Comcast."

O'Rourke insists he never told anyone at Comcast where he worked. His lawyer, indeed, wants Comcast to produce the recording of the call to prove their case. This Comcast allegedly hasn't done.

O'Rourke insists that he had an exemplary record at PWC -- he was employed at the San Jose, Calif., office. His lawsuit states: "Defendant Salva either directly asked for Mr. O'Rourke's termination, or implicitly requested and caused it by making the knowingly false, defamatory, and malicious accusation that Mr. O'Rourke had violated accounting ethics rules by attempting to use his employment with PWC as leverage in his 'negotiations' with Comcast."

O'Rourke claims his treatment at the hands of his employer was draconian: "Mr. O'Rourke was only interviewed once by PWC Human Resources and an Ethics investigator, on February 7, 2014, over the telephone. Mr. O'Rourke repeatedly requested that PWC obtain recordings of his calls with Comcast to prove his innocence, but PWC failed and refused to do so. Instead, on February 18, 2014, during an in-person meeting, Mr. O'Rourke was informed that he was being terminated for an ethics violation for using PWC's name as 'leverage' in his communications with Comcast. He was also told that this termination was based on a Comcast internal email summarizing his conversations with Comcast employees. Although Mr. O'Rourke requested the email, he was never permitted to see it."

PriceWaterhouseCoopers admits that it fired O'Rourke. In a statement last week, a spokeswoman characterized it like this: "Mr. O'Rourke was employed in one of our internal firm services offices. The firm terminated his employment after an internal investigation concluded that Mr. O'Rourke violated PwC's ethical standards and practices, applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct, we train our people in those policies, and we enforce them. Mr. O'Rourke's violation of these policies was the sole reason for his termination."

One does wonder why, if these are the facts, O'Rourke hasn't sued PriceWaterhouseCopers for wrongful termination. Perhaps that is a suit to come.

The suit against Comcast doesn't merely demand damages for its alleged actions. It also sues the company for breach of contract over its woeful service, which allegedly included failing to turn up for appointments, sending O'Rourke to collections and failing to repair his Internet service.

O'Rourke has not been able to secure employment since his firing and the suit is demanding more than $1 million in damages and legal costs.

Comcast offered this statement on the lawsuit: "We don't normally comment on pending litigation and as we have said, there were clear deficiencies in the customer service that we delivered to Mr. O'Rourke. Comcast had nothing to do with PricewaterhouseCoopers's decision to terminate Mr. O'Rourke. Once again, we apologize to Mr. O'Rourke for his service issues. We said we were determined to get to the bottom of exactly what happened with Mr. O'Rourke's service and we are doing that. As part of this investigation, we have listened to recorded calls between Mr. O'Rourke and our customer service representatives and his treatment of them and language is totally unspeakable. Mr. O'Rourke's claims are without merit."

To this statement, one of O'Rourke's lawyers, Harmeet Dhillon, retorted: "It is unclear whether Comcast is accusing our client of using profanity, or simply being angry after months of overcharging and broken promises to resolve his billing problems. In any event, being angry or using profanity isn't illegal. Even reciting a George Carlin routine in frustration at utterly incompetent and abusive 'customer service' isn't illegal. Violating the privacy of a cable subscriber and defaming him to his employer, is."

Update, 2:05 p.m. PT: Adds comment from O'Rourke's lawyer.