An African-American employee who sued United Parcel Service for racial discrimination lost his bid Friday to collect damages.
Jacob Robbins claimed he was subjected to unwarranted and unexplained disciplinary actions and that supervisors addressed him with racial slurs, including the term "monkey." An all-white jury decided after a four-day trial that Robbins had failed to prove his case and sided with UPS.
The decision left Robbins and his attorney shaking their heads.
"We are obviously very disappointed," said attorney Scott Goldsmith. "I believe there were errors made during the course of the trial that made it difficult or impossible for the jurors to hear an accurate account of what happened."
Goldsmith said U.S. District Judge James S. Moody ruled against admitting testimony and other evidence that the attorney believed would have painted a picture of a hostile work environment. Goldsmith said any post-trial motions he files will likely address that issue.
Officials with UPS, the world's largest package distribution company, denied the charges from the start. They have said that the company would not stand for such behavior. Minorities constitute more than a third of the Atlanta-based company's national work force of 300,000 and fill a quarter of all management positions, they said.
Robbins was one of eight present and former UPS employees who filed suit in 1998 claiming racial discrimination. The employees, who work at the facility on 50th Street, said the company had been unfair in matters of assignment, discipline and promotion.
Robbins, a UPS employee for 16 years, said he was demoted from driver to janitor after filing a federal discrimination complaint. Robbins was subsequently reinstated to a driver position and still works for UPS.
The seven other plaintiffs settled their claims before trial, although some of them have additional claims against the company and/or their union that are pending. Surgret Doss, for instance, settled his discrimination claim for an undisclosed amount of money but has a pending claim for wrongful termination.
"Whenever they wanted to make an example of someone, it was always a black employee," Doss said Friday. "They don't seem to want to wake up and admit that they have a problem."