A group of truck drivers terminated by their company have banded together to sue the company on the grounds of race discrimination.
The suit was filed in US District Court on Thursday, September 24th by four former drivers and their attorney against OK Grocery Co., Giant Eagle’s distribution center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The plaintiffs – Ulysses Robinson, Anthony Hill, Davone Grayson, and Showayne Samuels, were all fired by Giant Eagle between 2018 and 2020.
According to the suit, Giant Eagle has “followed a practice of disproportionately disciplining” its 20 to 25 black drivers for alleged misconduct, while white drivers in similar situations received no discipline.
The company, which employs around 200 drivers, has recently terminated at least five black drivers, while less than five of the 175 white drivers were terminated in the same time frame.
The complaint also states that the company did not take any action against a white driver accused of “racially derogatory statements.” The black female driver who notified the company of the statements was told no action was taken “because statements like that are made all the time within the workplace.”
“In one instance, a Caucasian truck driver was reported to have made the statement in the presence of other Caucasian truck drivers that ‘black lives do not matter around here,’” the suit said, also citing another instance in which a white driver called a black driver a “big fat dirty ‘N.’” Again, no action was taken against the accused white driver.
In another instance, Robinson and Hill were working on April 4th, 2020 when Hill got into a verbal altercation with a white driver. According to the suit, the white driver attempted to provoke a physical fight with Hill by making statements such as “you think you’re a tough guy.” The suit states that Robinson then stepped in to diffuse the situation and reported the incident to his union steward – Teamsters Union Local 249.
According to the suit, Robinson and Hill were subsequently removed from the work schedule and terminated entirely without being interviewed and without reviewing video footage of the incident. The white driver is said to have a history of threatening other drivers and even later accosted Robinson’s brother, also a truck driver, by saying “how’s your brother and Hill doing now?”
Another Incident cited in the suit involved a white driver blocking a black driver from entering the truck center by blocking the entrance with his personal vehicle, getting out of the vehicle, and “reportedly spitting in the face” of the black driver.
After the incident, both drivers were temporarily taken off of the work schedule, but further discipline was never pursued against the white driver.
In addition to Hill’s and Robinson’s situations, Grayson was involved in a chain-reaction accident on Route 80 in November 2019 and was subsequently terminated. The suit states that white truck drivers also involved in accidents were not fired. Samuels was terminated August 28th, 2018 for allegedly operating a reefer unit after it had been damaged in a minor parking lot accident. The suit states that the truck had already technically been repaired, and that Samuels had been given the okay to operate it by white supervisors. White drivers in similar situations had not been fired, the complaint states.
The suit requests that the drivers be rehired and their seniority within the company restored. The suit also requests compensatory and punitive damages to be paid.