A blockbuster race discrimination verdict against UPS was upheld by the Kentucky Court of Appeals last week, UPS v. Barber. The appeals court affirmed entirely the jury's verdict and the circuit judge's rulings.
The case was brought by a group of eight African-American men, who were all employed by UPS as "feeder drivers," which means that they drove tractor-trailers between hubs. Between 2006 and 2012 these drivers made "multiple complaints to UPS management about ongoing racial hostilities at the Lexington hub." Grievance meetings were held in 2009, 2011 and 2012 at which issues "raised included the use of racial slurs, epithets and cartoons, and the meting out of severe or unwarranted discipline based on race." A variety of retaliatory and punitive actions were taken against the drivers, while the evidence at trial showed no substantive response by UPS that led to any improvement for the issues.
A jury, after an eight day trial, awarded the drivers a total of $5,310,314.96 with the individual awards ranging from $100,000 to just over $1.5 million.
The most notable of the Court of Appeals rulings regarded the trial court's admission of evidence "introduced to show incidents of racial animus were brought to UPS's attention during meetings with UPS managers in 2009, 2011 and 2012." This evidence was correctly admitted as the Court of Appeals explained:
[The evidence] tended to undermine UPS's defense that it exercised reasonable care to prevent harassment and take corrective action when necessary. Further, this evidence showed a pattern and practice of adverse treatment, racial hostility, discrimination and retaliation - a purpose approved by our Supreme Court.