UPS discrimination lawsuit, discriminatory employment decisions.
Nineteen workers at United Parcel Service are suing their employer, alleging that management at its Maumee distribution hub “enabled, tolerated, and purposefully promoted and encouraged” a culture of racism there that led to racist acts and discriminatory employment decisions.
The lawsuit, which was filed late Wednesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, seeks injunctive relief to halt the discrimination, plus compensatory damages exceeding $25,000 as well as unspecified punitive damages to deter future unlawful conduct.
Named as defendants are the company, plus five locally-based UPS managers. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial.
In the 46-page lawsuit, the plaintiffs cite racists acts that reportedly occurred since 2016, including a July, 2016, incident in which an employee at the Maumee facility was fired after hanging a noose in the workplace, then posting an image of it on Facebook.
Other recent incidents occurring in 2016 are listed, including the white employees making hanging gestures, offensive racial language and texts toward black employees, racially charged remarks about Ku Klux Klan meetings, displaying of Confederate flags, and the placing of a stuffed monkey wearing a UPS uniform in an area where black employees were working.
But the suit also alleges that a pattern of discrimination has been ongoing at the facility for more than a decade. Many of the plaintiffs have been employed at UPS in Maumee for 10 years or longer.
The lawsuit describes incidents of black employees passed over for work assignments and promotions in favor of white employees with less training and less seniority. While not proscribed as a condition of promotion, the lawsuit says that UPS has relied on seniority to make promotions.
“Whether it’s promotions, assignments, what equipment you were given to do a job — you name it. Uniformly they were treated as second-class employees with less opportunity, less earning opportunities, and forced to be always wondering if they would still have jobs if they had tried to do anything about it,” said Fred Gittes, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
A statement released Thursday by UPS said: “UPS promptly investigated and took swift disciplinary action against those found to have engaged in inappropriate actions, including the discharge of two employees. Since that time, the company has participated in remedial actions in cooperation with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission so that employees are trained and our operations are monitored to ensure we maintain a positive work environment, free of harassment.
“The company has strict policies against harassment and discrimination. When an incident is reported, UPS takes the matter seriously, thoroughly investigates and takes appropriate disciplinary action against those found responsible for misconduct,” the statement said.
“We will not comment further on the specific details of the new lawsuit presented this week as we are reviewing the claims relative to the original facts revealed in 2016,” the statement added.
In June, 2017, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission determined that there was “probable cause to believe that discrimination and retaliation had occurred” at the Maumee facility, the lawsuit states.
Mr. Gittes said the lawsuit is not so much about the individual incidents involving racist acts, but that such things allegedly have been allowed to occur for so long.
“In most cases the supervisors ignored it and no discipline was taken. Or in the few cases where they took serious action, the employee’s bad behavior ended up being ignored or the employee was reinstated,” Mr. Gittes said.
On paper, according to the lawsuit, UPS claims to have zero tolerance for racism and promises to be an equal opportunity employer. After the state civil rights commission’s findings were announced in 2017, the commission chose not to pursue its charges against UPS in a full hearing.
Instead, the commission and company agreed to a conciliation agreement and consent order to address the problem. The order did not provide any compensation or relief for the plaintiffs, and UPS did not admit to any wrongdoing.
Mr. Gittes said that while the agreement did not help the 19 plaintiffs, “We do feel that the relief that was agreed upon by the commission does have value.” Some of the plaintiffs were told the company would step up minority hiring under the agreement.
“But the commission’s agreement does nothing about what happens to people once they get there,” the attorney said. “We want to make sure that all employees have an equal opportunity going forward.”
Mr. Gittes said the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit to change the work culture at the Maumee facility.
“As outrageous and unacceptable as these overt, threatening and racist acts are, there’s a bigger problem here. The bigger problem here is not these specific events — they’re terrible — but the way they reflect the larger problem which is that these long-term employees … were uniformly and consistently treated unfairly and unequally over and over again,” he said.