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CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill.—The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a unit of Overland Park, Kan.-based transportation firm YRC Worldwide Inc. have reached an $11 million settlement in a racial discrimination and harassment case, the agency and company said Friday.
The EEOC said in its suit that it had charged Yellow Transportation Inc. and YRC with subjecting African-American employees at its now-closed Chicago Ridge, Ill., facility to a racially hostile working environment and discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.
Yellow Transportation operated the facility until its merger with Roadway Express, when the two companies combined operations to form YRC in October 2008, according to the EEOC.
The EEOC said had the case gone to trial, it was prepared to present evidence that black employees were subjected to multiple incidents of hangman's nooses and racist graffiti, comments and cartoons.
It said it also would have presented evidence that black employees were subjected to harsher discipline and scrutiny than their white counterparts, as well as given more difficult and time-consuming work assignments.
The EEOC said although the Chicago Ridge facility closed in 2009, many black employees continue to work at YRC's Chicago Heights, Ill., facility, which was the subject of a separate EEOC lawsuit that resulted in a $10 million settlement in 2010.
The EEOC said the consent decree in connection with the litigation, which was entered in federal court in Chicago, will benefit as many as 324 black workers.
“This case, with evidence of hangman’s nooses, vile racist graffiti and race-based work assignments, proves that even after these many years, there is work to be done to eradicate pernicious racial hatred and discrimination,” EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said in a statement.
“The allegations date back to 2005 and were vigorously disputed by the company,” and the consent decree does not constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing, YRC Freight, a unit of YRC Worldwide, said in its statement.
“We take any claim of harassment or discrimination very seriously. There may be isolated instances of improper conduct in any workplace, but the allegations in these cases did not reflect the real working environment at Chicago Ridge,” Kelly White, senior vp of human resources for YRC Freight, said in its separately issued statement.
The company also said that it had “many factual and legal defenses to the claims, including evidence refuting the most scandalous allegations. Indeed, many former employees declined to join the EEOC’s lawsuit. YRC Freight, however, amicably settled the cases” to bring the litigation to an end and avoid further legal costs.