Nineteen current and former UPS workers in Ohio have filed a lawsuit accusing the company of enabling an “atmosphere of racism” in which black employees repeatedly suffered discrimination based on their race.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, alleges managers and supervisors “enabled, tolerated and purposefully promoted and encouraged a culture of racism and racially discriminatory conduct” at the UPS distribution center in Maumee, Ohio.
The workers, many of whom have worked for UPS for over two decades, say they were subjected to a slew of racist behavior during their time at the UPS center, including white employees using the racial slur “nigger” and distributing pictures of nooses.
One worker said he received a text message in February 2017 from a co-worker that showed a stuffed monkey wearing a UPS uniform had been placed near an area where African-American employees worked. No disciplinary or serious investigative action was taken, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges a white employee told her supervisor in September 2016 that she refused to deliver packages to a predominantly African-American neighborhood she described as “Niggerville.” The delivery driver was reportedly terminated and then later reinstated by UPS.
Another plaintiff said a white co-worker hung two nooses over his work station in July 2016. Several other white employees, including his supervisor, witnessed the act and made jokes about it. Though the white worker who committed the act was fired, nobody else faced discipline, according to the complaint obtained by HuffPost.
The workers also say they were often overlooked for promotions and more desirable positions due to racial discrimination. They are seeking a court order to stop the discrimination as well as compensation exceeding $25,000 and an unspecified amount in punitive damages “to deter future unlawful conduct.”
UPS said in a statement Thursday that the behavior reported in the lawsuit is “abhorrent and in conflict with our values and culture.”
“When an incident is reported, UPS takes the matter seriously, thoroughly investigates and takes appropriate disciplinary action against those found responsible for misconduct,” according to the statement.
UPS noted that it had investigated and taken disciplinary action against those “found to have engaged in inappropriate actions” and has since worked with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to train employees to ensure a “positive work environment.”
In April 2016, eight black men were awarded $5.3 million in damages after they sued UPS for fostering a hostile workplace in Lexington, Kentucky. The workers said their white co-workers hung an African-American effigy from the ceiling and used the racial slurs “jungle bunny” and “porch monkey.”