Frank Kineavy, Special to The Informer via DiversityInc
Imagine going to work and not only being harassed for the way you look but going in one morning and finding a noose above your desk? Black employees at a UPS plant in Ohio say that’s their reality.
A lawsuit filed March 13 in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in Toledo states that 19 Black employees at a Maumee location have been subjected to racial harassment and discrimination from white co-workers. This lawsuit included allegations of being passed over for promotions, use of the N-word, and a lack of accountability and disciplinary actions taken by the USP upper management team at the Maumee branch.
UPS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Abney leads a predominantly male 12-member executive leadership team of which three members are Black. UPS has never participated in DiversityInc’s Top 50 process.
The lawsuit, obtained by the Toledo Blade, states:
“For decades, African-American employees of UPS have been subjected to a persistent and continuing racially hostile work environment. African-American employees are consistently subjected to racially driven and offensive comments, slurs, and ‘jokes,’ and subjected to hostile stares from white co-workers as well as increased scrutiny and demeaning comments from managers and supervisors.”
It also states:
“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.”
Maumee, with a population of just under 14,000 residents, is approximately 92.9 percent white.
Pamela Camper, an employee that has been with the company for 30 years told CNN, “I cry every night because nothing has changed… not only do I cry for myself, I cried for the Black employees that worked in that facility because I see it all.”
Antonio Lino found a noose at his workspace in July 2016.
“I walked into work, I set up like I normally do, and I just happened to look over my shoulder and it was a noose hanging over my workspace first thing Monday morning,” he also told CNN.
Lino took a photo and sent it to corporate only to be told it was probably just a joke and to delete it from his phone. Instead of obeying that order, Lino posted it to social media that night. It took UPS a full year to terminate the employee contract.
The company did tell Lino why they didn’t fire the culprit immediately.
“There was two employees playing around with each other and one decided to take the time and make a real-life, 13-knot noose,” Lino said UPS told him. “And that was a joke to them.”
In the summer of 2017, the company was slapped by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission with “probable cause to believe that discrimination and retaliation had occurred” at the Maumee location.
UPS said in a statement that it “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.”
But Lino and Camper also recall incidents such as finding the word “ni**er” written on the bathroom wall. Also included in the lawsuit are records of finding inflammatory text messages between white coworkers, which included allusions to the Ku Klux Klan.
UPS said it would not “comment further on the specific details of the new lawsuit presented” as it is “reviewing the claims relative to the original facts revealed in 2016.”
This is not the only scandal UPS has been involved in with. UPS had to fork over $5.3 million to settle a case in Kentucky.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.