Va. trucking company settles discrimination suit

Published 1:36 pm Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Virginia trucking company has agreed to a $175,000 settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the federal government after the firing of a black dockworker at a company facility in Mississippi.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Estes Express Lines Inc. after the dismissal of Morris Young, who worked at the company’s Richland, Miss., facility. A settlement was announced Monday by the EEOC in a news release.

The lawsuit claimed that Young was wrongfully fired from his job May, 17, 2005, after being falsely accused of stealing part of two tobacco shipments in January of that year.

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The suit also alleged that a white dockworker was actually found in possession of the stolen merchandise and despite the company’s discovery of that employee’s theft, Estes chose to take no action against him, but suspended Young.

The worker had accused Young of taking part in the theft of one of the tobacco shipments, according to the EEOC.

EEOC regional attorney C. Emanuel Smith said Estes later fired Young and reported the allegations to local authorities without investigating the matter.

“The person who ultimately filed the police report against Mr. Young was a supervisor,” Smith said.

The EEOC says Richmond, Va.-based Estes has agreed to implement anti-discrimination policies and procedures, provide training to managers and thoroughly investigate and address any complaints of racial discrimination and retaliation in the future.

“Employers need to be very careful that decisions regarding alleged workplace misconduct are handled fairly and without regard to race,” EEOC Birmingham District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas said in the news release. “Having an anti-discrimination policy is insufficient if managers and supervisors do not enforce it.”

Estes officials did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The EEOC also announced that it has filed discrimination suits against Mississippi-based KLLM Transport Services Inc. of Jackson, a Biloxi car dealership and a Meridian nursing home.

KLLM is one of the largest temperature-controlled trucking companies in the United States. The EEOC claims the company violated the Americans With Disabilities Act in 2007 by allegedly refusing to hire a qualified applicant as a truck driver because he had a prosthesis.

“The EEOC has investigated this matter and attempted amicable resolution prior to filing suit,” Delner Franklin-Thomas said.

Preston Hood Chevrolet LLC of Biloxi was named in two EEOC lawsuits for alleged sex discrimination against female employees and racial discrimination against one black employee.

The EEOC filed a racial and age discrimination lawsuit against Popular Springs Nursing Center of Meridian for allegedly failing to hire a 53-year-old qualified black applicant for a social work position.