Yellow Transportation Inc. Settles $11 Million Race Discrimination Suit

Fortune 500 freight company Yellow Transportation Inc., now known as YRC Freight, has settled an $11 million race discrimination suit, as reported this week by the Chicago Sun-Times. This is the second such suit settled by the company in as many years, bringing the total payments by the company for race discrimination in its Chicago branches to $21 million. This suit against Yellow Transportation provides another example of the historical and enduring race discrimination within the trucking industry that is just now being addressed.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the suit in 2009 on behalf of 324 workers at the Chicago Ridge branch of the company who they allege faced years of discrimination and harassment because of their race. The EEOC’s complaint alleged that workers at the company’s Chicago Ridge office faced daily discrimination, with hangman’s nooses, racist graffiti and insults common. The complaint also alleged that the company assigned to racial minorities more difficult and time consuming work. The company also allegedly paid racial minorities less and disciplined them more severely than non-minorities for similar infractions.
Yellow Transportation Inc., with over 28,000 employees, is one of the most dominant companies in the trucking industry. As the EEOC in its press release on the settlement noted, the historical and pervasive discrimination in the trucking industry is just now coming into the public spotlight and being addressed. With over 3.2 million truck drivers in the United States, there is still a shortage of workers in the industry, as reported by the New York Times.
Even with this shortage, harassment and intimidation of minority truck drivers is still common, especially in the Midwest. As the Chicago Sun-Times noted in its editorial on the Yellow Transportation settlement, the continuing tolerance for discrimination within the industry is driving many eligible truck drivers away during a time when the industry is still struggling to attract workers.
During the three years of litigation of the Yellow Transportation suit, the EEOC has filed a number of other cases against trucking companies across the nation. For example, last June the EEOC filed a race discrimination suit against A.C. Widenhouse, a North Carolina-based freight company for race discrimination and harassment very similar to that alleged in the Yellow Transportation case. In the complaint against A.C. Widenhouse, the EEOC claimed that African American workers were threatened with hanging and hangmen’s nooses and were assaulted with racial derogatory insults on a regular basis. Two other suits filed in 2011 in California, one against Scully Transportation Services and another against Sutter Transfer Service also alleged similar facts and a pattern of egregious discriminatory actions against racial minorities at the trucking companies. Though each of these suits are still pending, they still certainly serve as examples of the kind of environment many minorities breaking into the trucking industry still face.
This EEOC settlement should serve as a wakeup call for all those within the trucking industry who may not believe that hangmen’s nooses, graffiti and racial slurs rise to the level of illegal discrimination. Perhaps after this second multi-millionaire dollar judgment, Yellow Transportation will take the lead in eliminating race discrimination within its ranks. Hopefully the fear of another over $10 million suit will be enough of an impetus for change.

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