UPS Driver May Maintain Racial Harassment Case After Co-workers Left Banana Peels In His Truck

Although what constitutes actions that are “enough” to show racial harassment isn’t set is stone – case law provides some guidance. In some situations the harassment is obvious – such as a noose in the workplace. Other times case law finds racial discrimination exists because of subtle practices that tend to screen out minority applicants and employees, such as job and intelligence tests, appearance and dress codes, English-only rules, relying on arrest records in making employment decisions, and discriminatory recruiting practices.

In other situations, race discrimination may not involve official company practices, but rather racial harassment, such as the use of derogatory racial jokes by co-employees without knowledge of company management. Whether it is an official company policy, or harassment by co-employees, you may not be subjected to adverse action, including harassment, because of your race or color.

If you believe you have endured racially discriminatory actions or racial harassment, it’s important to seek the advice of a top Atlanta race discrimination attorney right away.

A recent case evaluated the actions an African American United Parcel Service (UPS) worker was subjected to and found that it was possible a jury could find that he was a victim of racial harassment claim. In Jones v. UPS, the former driver – Reginald Jones – stated that he found banana peels on his truck, saw workers wearing Confederate appeals and experienced a threatening confrontation with two white yardmen.

Although the district court ruled in favor of UPS and granted summary judgment on Jones’s racially hostile work environment claims, the 11th Circuit court reversed, finding that the banana incidents could be “racially motivated.” The court also noted that a jury question exists concerning the severity and pervasiveness of the banana incidents. These incidents, combined with other harassing conduct could be considered “escalating in frequency and seriousness” as required by racial harassment law.

The Appellate court acknowledged that while people commonly eat and discard bananas without any racial motivation, the term “monkey” and associated imagery historically has been used to communicate racial slurs against black employees.
“[I]t ‘has become easier to coat various forms of discrimination with the appearance of propriety’ because the threat of liability takes that which was once overt and makes it subtle,” the court said. “For instance, a discriminator may conjure up images of monkeys by using items associated with monkeys, such as their stereotypical food of choice, the banana.” As such, the appellate court said it had “no difficulty” in finding genuine disputes of material fact about whether the instances in which Jones found bananas on his truck were based on race.

“There is no evidence that bananas were found on any other truck,” it said. “Nor is there any evidence that Mr. Jones found any other refuse on his truck. This combination of facts suggests the bananas were not appearing on Mr. Jones’s truck by mere chance.”

Unfortunately despite many advances, racism still exists in the workplace today. If you believe you have been subjected to racially motivated discrimination or harassment, please contact the top Georgia race discrimination and race harassment attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP right away to protect your rights.