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PRESS RELEASE
12-11-09

EEOC Sues YRC, Inc. / Yellow Transportation For Widespread Race Discrimination At Chicago Ridge

Agency Says Black Employees at Trucking Giant Were Subjected to Nooses, Racist Graffiti, Racial Epithets, Harsher Discipline, and Tougher Work Assignments

CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit late yesterday against YRC,  Inc., alleging that it subjected black employees at its Chicago Ridge, Ill.,  facility to a racially hostile working environment. The suit also names Yellow Transportation,  which operated the facility until its merger with Roadway Express, which resulted  in the combination of the companies under the YRC, Inc. name in October  2008. YRC, Inc. is now the nation’s  largest less-than-truckload freight hauling company and is headquartered in Overland Park, Kan.

According  to the EEOC’s complaint, since at least 2004, black employees at the Chicago  Ridge facility were subjected to hangman’s nooses, racist graffiti and racist  comments. During this time, the complaint  also alleges, YRC subjected black employees to harsher discipline and scrutiny  than their white counterparts, and gave more difficult and time-consuming work  assignments to black employees than white employees. According to the EEOC, its administrative investigation  which preceded the lawsuit revealed that black employees made numerous  complaints about discriminatory working conditions over the years, but YRC  failed to take effective action to correct the problems.

Race discrimination violates Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The  EEOC will seek relief for over 200 African American employees who worked at  Chicago Ridge from 2004 to the present. The  EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, EEOC v. Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC,  Inc. No. 09 CV 7693, assigned to  District Judge James F. Holderman and Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox, after  first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its statutory  conciliation process.

The lawsuit is the third of three  lawsuits brought by EEOC challenging alleged race discrim­ination at Roadway,  Yellow, or YRC. Since 2006, the EEOC has  been pursuing litigation against YRC, Inc as the result of discriminatory  treatment of black employees at YRC’s (formerly Roadway Express’s) facilities  in Chicago Heights (N.D. Ill. No. 06 C 4805) and Elk Grove Village, Ill. (N.D.  Ill. No. 08 C 5555). Those two lawsuits,  which are pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cox in federal court in Chicago, also charge a  pattern of misconduct through the displaying of nooses and racist graffiti, as  well as unequal treatment in discipline and work assignments. The EEOC represents more than 150 employees  at those two facilities.

“In this  economy, many employers—including trucking and transportation companies such as  YRC—are facing choices about how to allocate resources,” said EEOC Chicago  District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson.  “But the allegations here predate the recent downturn. This suit, and those involving the Chicago  Heights and Elk Grove facilities, should remind all employers that federal laws  barring employment discrimination are not put on hold during recessions, and  that no employer should think that ignoring and failing to remedy on-the-job harassment  can somehow be excused as a cost-saving measure.”

John Rowe,  district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, oversaw the  investigation of the charges of discrimination at Chicago Ridge underlying the  lawsuit. According to Rowe, “The alleged  discrimination uncovered in this case—the nooses, racist slurs and graffiti—show  that systemic race discrimination continues to be a serious problem which  requires EEOC intervention. That’s our  job, and when we see business being conducted in this way, we cannot look the  other way.”

EEOC Trial  Attorney Richard Mrizek added, “We do not believe that the harsh discipline and  difficult work assignments received by black employees at YRC were the product  of chance or happen­stance. We expect to  show that the black employees received more difficult work assignments and  harsher discipline for the same reason they were subjected to a hostile work environment. That reason, EEOC contends, is racial bias,  and in the workplace that violates federal law.”

In addition  to Hendrickson, Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour and Trial Attorneys  Mrizek, Ethan Cohen, and Deborah Hamilton will staff the EEOC litigation team. The EEOC Chicago District Office is  responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative  enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois,  Wisconsin, Minnesota,  Iowa, and North and South  Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee  and Minneapolis.

The EEOC  enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.