$11 Million Consent Decree in Racial Harassment and Discrimination Case Against Major Transportation Company

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An $11 million consent decree has ended the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) race harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC, Inc.  Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox granted preliminary approval of the decree.  

In its suit, the EEOC charged that Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC, Inc. subjected African-American employees at its Chicago Ridge, Ill., facility to a racially hostile working environment and discriminatory terms and conditions of employment. Yellow Transportation operated the facility until its merger with Roadway Express, when the two companies combined operations to form YRC Inc. in October 2008.  

The black employees alleged that they were subjected to multiple incidents of hangman’s nooses and racist graffiti, comments and cartoons. The EEOC would have presented evidence that Yellow and YRC subjected black employees to harsher discipline and scrutiny than their white counterparts and gave them more difficult and time-consuming work assignments. This would include expert testimony that these practices resulted in statistically significant differences in the way blacks and whites were treated. Numerous black employees, according to the EEOC, had complained about all of these conditions over the years, but the company continually failed to take effective action to correct the problems.  

Under the consent decree settling the suit, signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox, $11 million will be paid to the discrimination victims. The Chicago Ridge facility closed in 2009, however, many African-American employees from Chicago Ridge continue to work at YRC’s Chicago Heights facility. The Chicago Heights facility was itself the subject of a separate lawsuit by the EEOC against YRC with similar allegations, resulting in a $10 million settlement in 2010. That first consent decree (Chicago Heights) will also protect the victims of the second lawsuit at Chicago Ridge.

The Chicago Heights decree enjoins YRC from engaging in any further discrimination because of race and from retaliating against people who complain about racial bias. The decree also requires YRC to retain consultants to examine the company’s discipline and work assignment procedures and recommend changes to prevent racial disparities. Activities at Chicago Heights are being reviewed by a monitor who oversees the company’s response to complaints and who reports semi-annually to the court and to the EEOC on the company’s compliance with the decree. 

The decree will benefit as many as 324 African-American employees who worked at the Chicago Ridge facility on the dock and in the yard as dockworkers, hostlers, janitors, clericals and supervisors from 2004 to the closing of the facility in September 2009. Eligible claimants will be invited to participate in a claims process over the coming months.

The consent decree resolves two lawsuits that were consolidated for purposes of the settlement. A group of 14 employees initially filed a class action suit under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act in October 2008 (Brown, et al. v. Yellow Transportation, Inc. No. 08 CV 5908). The EEOC then filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination (EEOC v. Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC, INC. No. 09 CV 7693). 

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