Nineteen workers at a United Parcel Service facility in the Toledo suburb of Maumee, Ohio, have filed a lawsuit against their employer, accusing managers of not only enabling but encouraging “a culture of racism and racially discriminatory conduct.”
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, names UPS, as well as five supervisors and managers who reportedly fostered a racially hostile workplace, USA Today reported. The employees, who are Black, claim two nooses were hung above an African-American worker’s desk, and that a stuffed monkey dressed as a UPS worker was also displayed.
On another occasion, the complaint claims a white colleague refused to deliver packages to a predominately Black neighborhood and used a slur to describe the area.
“African-American employees come to work each day not knowing employees 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 suit reads. “All of this takes an emotional toll on them that nonminority employees do not confront.”
The workers, some of whom have been at the company for over two decades, expressed anger over the company’s tolerance for the racist conduct and said their reactions to the mistreatment ranged from “fear, anger and disgust to dismay.” Still, UPS maintains that it addressed the employees’ concerns.
“UPS promptly investigated and took swift disciplinary action against those found to have engaged in inappropriate actions, including the discharge of two employees,” UPS spokesman Dean Foust said in a statement. “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.”
In their lawsuit, employees detail numerous racial incidents that reportedly occurred at the distribution facility.
One African-American worker said text messages he received in a group chat with white colleagues regarding possible lottery winnings contained “racially driven” and “offensive” language, including comments about a noose.
“If you feel down and out, the noose is loose,” one of the messages read, according to screenshots. “Can we buy another noose with the winnings?”
The employee reported the incident to management but no action was taken, the lawsuit states.
In September 2016, a white UPS worker remarked that he was “late for a [Ku Klux] Klan meeting” and also went unpunished. The quip was was reportedly made in front of one Black co-worker and another white co-worker.
The incidents, along with others including a hangman game photo featuring a Black effigy, Confederate flag displays and scrawling “n—-r” in the bathrooms as graffiti, are what employees say contributed to a toxic and openly racist work environment.
The lawsuit also argues that African-American workers were discriminated against in the hiring, promotion and discipline processes. Black employees were routinely passed up for favorable assignments and promotions, and were disciplined much more harshly than their white colleagues, who faced little to no punishment for their infractions, the complaint states.
“The acts and omissions of UPS through its employees, supervisors, and managers have created an atmosphere of pervasive racial hostility and intimidation and a racially hostile
work environment,” it adds. “Further, UPS has engaged in a continued and ongoing pattern and practice of discrimination.”
The workers are now seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief,” along with at least $25,000 in damages to each of the employees. The lawsuit also seeks an unspecified amount in punitive damage and coverage of legal fees.