Black workers at UPS hub say they were targets of racism

Pamela Camper has worked at a UPS distribution center in the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio, for 30 years, where she supervises drivers and deals with customers. But after three decades with the delivery giant, she’s still part-time.

“I’ve tried several times to get promoted to full-time positions, and I get overlooked constantly,” said Camper, claiming that UPS often promotes people with less experience who are white (Camper is black.) “Sometimes positions are posted, but the majority of the time they’re not. I’m told the position has already been filled, but I don’t have an opportunity to even apply for the position.”

Camper is one of 19 UPS workers who are suing the company and five managers, alleging that for years it engaged in discriminatory hiring and permitted a series of racist acts. The latter allegedly included white employees using racial slurs toward African-American coworkers, joking about attending Ku Klux Klan meetings, and the appearance of nooses, Confederate flags and a stuffed monkey in the workplace.

Managers at the UPS distribution hub in Maumee, Ohio, “enabled, tolerated, and purposefully promoted and encouraged” a culture of racism at the site that led to racist acts and discriminatory employment decisions, according to the complaint. “They have promoted and tolerated an atmosphere of racism in which individual employees feel free to display overt racial biases.”

“I don’t feel safe”

In 2016, Antonio Lino, a black worker, started his shift to find two nooses hanging above his workstation that had been left by white workers from the previous shift, the lawsuit alleges. Lino reported them to management, but was told that the nooses were “just a joke between two white employees,” according to the complaint. He also claimed that managers threatened to discipline him for taking photographs of the nooses.

Camper also describes learning that a driver didn’t want to deliver a package that was addressed to a residence in an African-American neighborhood. When Camper asked the driver, who was white, why she brought the package back to the distribution center, the driver responded with a racial epithet, Camper said. Complaints to her manager and a division manager went nowhere, she added.

“I have to work with these drivers,” Camper said. “I don’t feel safe in the building, I’m looking over my shoulder constantly.”

UPS fired two workers

UPS said in a statement Thursday that it responded quickly and fired two employees after the 2016 complaints. The company also said it has taken remedial steps in cooperation with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, including additional training and monitoring.

UPS told the Associated Press it would not comment further on the lawsuit, “as we are reviewing the claims relative to the original facts revealed in 2016.”

An attorney for the workers said black employees at the UPS facility were routinely harassed and belittled by white workers, and experienced retaliation after reporting harassment.

“It’s hard to work at a place where, in the everyday work environment, they are treated as second-class workers. They are belittled, they are monitored more carefully,” said attorney Fred Gittes.

The lawsuit seeks to halt the alleged discrimination, along with damages of more than $25,000.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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