Employees of a UPS distribution center in Maumee, Ohio filed a lawsuit alleging a raciallly hostile work culture.
Nineteen workers at a United Parcel Service (UPS) distribution center in are alleging their employer “enabled, tolerated, and purposefully promoted and encouraged a culture of racism and racially discriminatory conduct,” according to a new lawsuit filed. The company itself is named in the suit along with five facility supervisors and managers who the employees claim “maintained a racially hostile work environment.” The filing was recorded in Lucas County Court of Common Pleas.
“African-American employees come to work each day not knowing whether a racist comment or conduct will confront them, being concerned that smirking or laughing white employees are ridiculing them because of their race, and walking on eggshells to avoid triggering a problem,” the 46-page lawsuit states. Some of these employees had been at the UPS distribution center in Maumee for more than two decades.
In a July 2016 incident, one of the defendants “created two nooses and hung them over the desk of an African-American employee while a supervisor and other white co-workers made jokes,” the lawsuit says. “Although that employee was fired, the victim was told not to speak about the incident and that he could be disciplined for taking photographs of the nooses.”
Just a few days later, that same year, another African-American employee “received text messages from white co-workers in a group chat regarding potential lottery winnings that contained references to hangings such as: ‘If you feel down and out, the noose is loose’ and ‘Can we buy another noose with the winnings’,” according to the allegations. “Although the incident was reported to management, employees say no disciplinary action was taken.”
The lawsuit also claims that “in September 2016, a white employee refused to deliver a package to a predominately African-American neighborhood and used a racial slur to describe the area.” The employee was initially terminated by the company, but was “almost immediately, voluntarily reinstated by UPS.”
There were also comments made about “Ku Klux Klan meetings, the presence of Confederate flags and the display of a stuffed monkey dressed as a UPS employee,” which created a racially hostile work environment. The employees are alleging that African-American workers faced discrimination from a human resource standpoint as well in operations such as hiring, promoting, and disciplining. “White employees with less seniority and fewer qualifications were chosen for promotions and favorable work assignments over black employees,” the suit states.
According to the lawsuit, the “Ohio Civil Rights Commission received several complaints from employees and determined ‘there was probable cause to believe that discrimination and retaliation had occurred’ in June 2017.” And yet, “the Commission chose not to pursue charges and instead enacted an agreement with UPS that provided no compensation to the plaintiffs and required no admission of wrongdoing from the company.”
“UPS promptly investigated and took swift disciplinary action against those found to have engaged in inappropriate actions, including the discharge of two employees,” UPS spokesperson Dean Foust said. “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 employees are seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief” including compensatory damages exceeding $25,000, legal fees, and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.