Braking Bad

By Alex Distefano

Posted October 4, 2012 in News

To the Fontana trucking company accused of racial discrimination against its non-white employees—pay up, sucka!

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it settled a class-action lawsuit accusing a Fontana-based trucking and distribution company of racist harassment against its Latino and African American employees as well as those believed to be of Middle Eastern or Muslim backgrounds.

Roughly 50 individuals were involved in the suit, which alleges a pattern of racial discrimination, harassment, verbal abuse, wrongful termination, retaliation and hostile working conditions at the hands of Scully Distribution Services’ upper management since at least 2003, Christine Park-Gonzalez, an EEOC program analyst from the commission’s Los Angeles office, told the Weekly.

All incidents of harassment, Park says, specifically targeted the company’s truck drivers, and were in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

“This all started with allegations and complaints of abuse that were brought to our attention in the form of complaints,” Park-Gonzalez says. “This has been a long pattern with this company. Most of the people in the class-action suit are no longer working with the company, but a few still are. About half of these individuals are African American, roughly half are Latino and there are a few Eastern Indian/Middle Easterners as well.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Scully Distribution Services’ Fontana Holdings Inc. will pay $630,000, which will be divvied up among the suit’s plaintiffs, according to Park-Gonzalez.

Though not all of the victims were named in court records, several were identified, according to public documents obtained by the Weekly. John Trahan, Luis Gallardo and Mohit Narayan alleged verbal abuse, racial slurs, intimidation, harassment, unfavorable treatment and illegal work practices involving shift times and hours—violations of trucking regulations.

From April 2003 through August 2010, Trahan served as the operations manager for Scully’s operations in Fresno, Sacramento and Stockton. He alleged that he was ridiculed by upper management and harassed daily, and that he saw other employees verbally threatened if they complained and, in some cases, wrongfully terminated for doing so.

The suit also alleged that company officials commonly referred to African American employees with the n-word and Latinos as “spics” or “gangbanger.” Narayan and other employees that were perceived to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern or East Asian descent were called “camel jockeys” and “al-Qaeda terrorists” as well as a variation of the n-word.

Narayan eventually filed several complaints with the EEOC, alleging that his site manager had called him a “f#@*ing terrorist,” asked him about attending an “al-Qaeda terrorist camp” and questioned him about the “location of the next 9/11.”

Trahan also filed a complaint on behalf on Narayan. Three weeks later, Trahan was fired, allegedly in retaliation of the complaint.

Luis Gallardo alleged that Scully did not pay overtime to non-white drivers. In addition, non-white drivers were allegedly forced to work shifts that violated the U.S. Department of Transportation’s guidelines in order to meet deadlines. These guidelines state that drivers must not work shifts exceeding 14 hours (including lunch) or drive continuously for more than 10 hours.

The Weekly was unable to confirm if any of the offending managers or supervisors involved in the lawsuit were terminated or not. According to Park-Gonzalez, part of the court-ordered judgment requires an EEOC monitor to ensure that the company is in full compliance with anti-discrimination laws. The order also includes the “implementation and continued maintenance of a policy and complaint procedure” that will address issues of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as well as annual anti-discrimination training courses for managers [and] drivers.”

“The EEOC is pleased that the parties were able to bring this case to an early resolution that will benefit all Scully employees who were subjected to this type of hostility based on their race, religion or national origin,” EEOC regional attorney Anna Y. Park says. “A hostile work environment involving offensive slurs and ethnic epithets is not acceptable in any work force, including one mostly comprised of truck drivers.”

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