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Black UPS worker denied appeal to racial discrimination overtime suit

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Dive Brief:

  • The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a Black UPS worker’s appeal in a racial discrimination case in which the worker alleged his supervisors denied him overtime because of his race.
  • The plaintiff alleged that he “endured repeated discriminatory incidents” related to his race because he is African American, and he had filed complaints therein. White mechanics in his unit were eligible for overtime compensation; the plaintiff said that UPS made him work in a racially hostile environment.
  • Despite other mechanics testifying that a manager in the unit treated Black mechanics worse than White mechanics, the court ultimately ruled that there weren’t enough specific examples of “severe and pervasive harassment.”

Dive Insight:

UPS workers who testified in the case said that the manager in question would offer special privileges to White mechanics and punish their Black peers differently; this allegedly would show up in “greater leniency on issues of attendance” and more leisure time in the workplace.

As the district court held, the plaintiff’s race discrimination claim failed because he couldn’t show that UPS’ denial of overtime was pretextual. The plaintiff pointed to the fact that White mechanics in his department could get overtime, but it was dependent on job duties applying to specific vehicles. 

“The cost-cutting policy did not apply to them. [The plaintiff] admitted as much,” the court documents said.

What should HR pros take away from cases such as this one? Reporting racial discrimination is continuously nuanced. “While an employee need not personally experience hostility to make out a hostile work environment claim, the employee must know of the hostile incidents,” the court said.

UPS continues to be a battleground for worker’s rights cases: the parcel company recently made headlines in July for winning an ADA case, and shortly thereafter reached a tentative national agreement with the Teamsters.

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