SAN FRANCISCO — Global shipping company UPS violated federal law when it allowed supervisors and coworkers to discriminate against and harass an employee for being Arab and Muslim, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The suit also alleged UPS illegally retaliated against the worker after he reported the harassment to the company, his union and the EEOC.
Talal Alfaour, who is Jordanian and Muslim, began working at UPS’s San Bruno Hub in South San Francisco in 1995 as a loader and revenue worker. Since at least 2004, Alfaour faced discrimination including both verbal and physical harassment. He was derided as “Dr. Bomb,” “Al Qaeda,” and “Taliban,” and a supervisor told Alfaour that he could never work with hazardous materials because “you are a terrorist and you are going to blow up the building.” Alfaour was assaulted with rocks, bottles and tools, and a dead mouse was placed in his lunch sack. Although Alfaour repeatedly reported the harassment to management, UPS failed to take effective action, and instead he was involuntarily transferred and subjected to micro-managing scrutiny at his new work station.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits harassment due to national origin and religion, and protects workers who report such discrimination from retaliation. After attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation with UPS, the EEOC filed this lawsuit (EEOC v. UPS, Inc., Civil No. 12-4723 DMR) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit seeks monetary damages on behalf of Alfaour, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other measures to prevent future discrimination.
“Mr. Alfaour faced egregious and intolerable harassment but continues to work at UPS in hopes that the situation would be remedied,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “The EEOC has filed suit to defend his right to a work environment free from hostility, intimidation and ridicule.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said, “Punishing an employee who speaks up about discrimination is not only illegal but also poisons the workplace. It sends the message to your staff that an employee complains at his or her own risk, and it can encourage harassers to continue.”
Baldonado noted that in fiscal year 2011, retaliation charges (37,334) represented 37.4% of all charges filed with the EEOC – the highest percentage of any claim for that year, and the highest number of retaliation charges ever received by the EEOC in any fiscal year.
According to its website,www.ups.com, UPS (NYSE: UPS) is a “global leader in logistics” with headquarters in Atlanta, serving more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.