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Group of Black Employees Sues UPS

Litigation: Class action alleges racial bias. Company asserts it 'does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.'

May 01, 1997|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of African American employees of United Parcel Service of America filed a lawsuit Wednesday that accuses the package-delivery giant of racial discrimination.

The class-action suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, alleges that Atlanta-based UPS is more likely to promote white employees and to give them better delivery routes, hours and pay. The suit charges that black drivers are systematically assigned routes in high-crime neighborhoods and that black employees are forced to work in an atmosphere of racial hostility.

UPS said in a statement that it "does not tolerate discrimination of any kind" and has tried to discuss the allegations but "our attempts to resolve these issues in a quick and responsive manner have been consistently refused."

"We will continue to investigate these claims in the hope of ensuring every UPS employee continues to work in an environment free of discrimination, harassment or mistreatment of any kind," the company said.

Wednesday's legal action follows a separate suit filed in March against UPS by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That class-action suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges that UPS violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by refusing to allow employees with sight in only one eye to drive delivery trucks.

UPS has said it believes that lawsuit has no merit.

The latest suit details alleged racial incidents at several UPS facilities in the West, including complaints that "KKK" was scrawled inside a men's locker room at the UPS center in San Bernardino in January and on a conveyor belt last month at the same facility.

In addition, San Bernardino employees say a package with "KKK" written in black marker was left in one driver's truck and another bearing a large swastika was sent down a conveyor belt. UPS painted over the graffiti and investigated the incidents but has been unable to determine who was responsible. The company posted a $10,000 reward for information because "we take the situation very seriously," a UPS spokesman said.

One plaintiff, Etienne Carter, a part-time supervisor in San Bernardino, "has been subjected to constant verbal harassment from a non-African American supervisor, who also physically threatened Mr. Carter," the suit stated.

William Wilson Lewis III, a driver with UPS in San Bernardino for nearly 23 years who is also a plaintiff, said in an interview that he has seen "a great deal of discrimination . . . from the first day on the job." Racial epithets, insults and jokes are common, he said.

"I had a family, I didn't want to make waves, so I just put up with it," Lewis said.

UPS does not fire its problem supervisors, it reassigns them, said Robert Y. Chan, one of the lawyers representing the UPS employees.

"The problem supervisors are never taken out of the system, they're just rerouted," he said.

Plaintiff Reginald Green, a part-time supervisor who has worked for UPS in Ontario for eight years, said he and other black employees were frequently passed over for promotions.

UPS is the world's largest package distribution company.

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