UPS has been hit with a lawsuit after 19 current and former employees claim that the company “enabled, tolerated, and purposefully promoted and encouraged a culture of racism and racially discriminatory conduct to take root” at a Maumee, Ohio distribution center.
According to the Washington Post, the plaintiffs, many of whom have been with UPS for 10 years or more, say that they were subject to a “persistent and continuing racially hostile work environment” for more than a decade.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, alleges a slew of hateful conduct that date back to at least 2013. Nooses were allegedly hung above a Black employee’s work station, Confederate flags were openly displayed, a stuffed monkey was dressed to look like a UPS worker and placed where Black employees were working. The use of the n-word was a commonplace occurrence. The employees also claimed that they faced discrimination through being “systematically denied job opportunities,” over their white counterparts who had less training and less seniority.
“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 lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to stop the discrimination, as well as more than $25,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages.
“As outrageous and unacceptable as these overt, threatening and racist acts are, there’s a bigger problem here,” Fred Gittes, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Toledo Blade. “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. ”
UPS released a statement on Thursday saying that they have taken appropriate action to address the allegations, including discharging two employees.
“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 statement to the Blade read. “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”
But this lawsuit, which names UPS, and five local UPS managers as defendants, still stresses a long pattern of racist tactics, including back in 2016 when an employee at the Maumee facility was fired after hanging a noose at the distribution center and then posting a photo to Facebook.
After receiving multiple complaints, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission ruled in June 20177 that there was “probable cause to believe that discrimination and retaliation had occurred” at the Maumee facility, the lawsuit notes.
“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,” Gittes pointed out.
And despite the Commission’s findings, they reached an agreement with UPS to address the issue, and did not provide any compensation for the plaintiffs, nor was UPS required to admit wrongdoing.
The lawsuit then is a way of truly enacting real change in the work culture at the Maumee facility.
“We want to make sure that all employees have an equal opportunity going forward,” Gittes said.
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