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Discrimination in compensation, threats and workplace intimidation.

Seattle, WA |

My employer makes me work out of my job description whenever it is convenient to them and whenever I question the way the department is being ran or don't cover for him missing assignments and appointments. I started and was hired as a CDL A driver. A dispatcher took a leaves of absence so they moved me to dispatcher. When the other dispatcher came back they left me as a dispatcher. They promoted the 3rd dispatcher to Transportation Department Acting Manager. He is white. Since then he has been replaced by a full time manager. The 3rd has no management experience. He does not have a CDL or any basic knowledge of 18wheelers. They gave him a huge raise in the neighborhood of 25 to 30%. They send him to all sorts of management classes, training seminars and provide him these ad more opportunities ALL paid for by the company. They went so far as to try to send him to the Community College to get a CDL but a DUI popped up on his record, now he tells my drivers that he could not go to school because I complain too much. They gave me and the other dispatcher, who is from India and also does not have a CDL, a 3% +25 cent raise? I brought all this to their attention in July when my review was due. They told me that I had pulled double duty Voluntarily the last year and that since I had not been told to Dispatch and drive, sometimes simultaneously, that they were not responsdible for compensating me for working BOTH jobs for months on end. They had the HR rep show me a document where they had 'Changed' my job description in November of 2007. I had never seen that document before nor was my signature on it and it was a photo copy. On that document which looked recent, it called me a Dispatcher / Driver as versus Driver / Dispatcher, according to them. No one else in the department has a dual job description that they have to hop back and forth from. In either case, why do I have to do both? I make LESS money than all of the other dispatchers! Last month they fired another black man their and now the dispatcher from India is leaving on a 8 week vacation. They have ordered me to go get back into a truck? They have not hired any one? It seems to me that every time the department is in need, I have to sacrifice. they don't have to pay me so they are using me up, I have to change my schedule, I have to go do special events. This company has grown and opened new stores and new locations over the last year. They purchased 14 box trailers at a cost in excess of $140,000. They created 2 new management positions salary, high pay? It is not an issue of money. This is part of a pattern of the treatment of minorities in the Company. The third and last meeting ended with the Director of Transportation threatening me with the loss of hours at my job because he said that if I did not do both jobs 'WHENEVER' they told me that would mean they would have to hire someone else and find the cost somewhere. But dispatcher #3 is just sitting behind me playing on the Internet all day. He said that to me in front of the HR rep, she was on the verge of tears. So as I said earlier if they did not compensate for the fired black man why do I have to loose my dispatching position because they did not plan for the loss? And yes I am a black men

Attorney Answers 1


You're in a tough spot. As a practical matter, it is very difficult to bring a legal action against your current employer. While strictly speaking, they should not retaliate against you for bringing the legal complaint, you and I both know that chances are that they will. You can add the retaliation issue to your lawsuit, but meanwhile, you will be either in a very uncomfortable working environment, or out of a job altogether. It then becomes very difficult to find a new job, because when prospective employers find out you are suing your most recent employer, you get passed over.

Another problem is that there is a law against employers discriminating because of race, but there is no law against employers being unjust and downright mean spirited in general, so long as their attitude and conduct is not based on an illegal reason. So, you will need to prove that discrimination was because of race. Fortunately, the law assumes that few employers are going to openly disclose discriminatory intent, so there are various ways to show that the employer's stated reason for its conduct was pretext, and that race was a substantial factor in the employer's decision to behave as it did. Gathering evidence to show this can be difficult, particularly since your best witnesses will likely be your coworkers, and they tend to evaporate when things get serious.

That said, I would suggest two steps for you. First, it sounds as though you are doing quite a lot of work. You also don't sound like you would qualify to be an exempt employee. Are you getting paid for all the hours you are working? Are you getting paid time-and-a-half for all hours over 40 each week that you are working? If not, you may want to talk to HR about this, and if you get no results, talk to the Dept of Labor & Industries, or to an attorney. One or the other should be able to make clear to your employer the error of its ways on that score, if this is an issue, and since that it a simple matter of numbers, it is not very expensive or time consuming to prove. Retaliation could still be a risk, so you will have to determine whather to pursue this or not.

Second, I suggest you see an employment law attorney to discuss your case in detail. What your best strategy might be will depend a lot on the particulars of your employer, your own options, and the details of what has happened to you. Some of what you mention in your post has no bearing on your case, but by the same token, there may be many details that you did not realize are important that would help an attorney give you guidance. Many attorneys will do an initial consultation at no charge, spending 30 minutes or so getting the details from you and letting you know whether or not legal action is likely to be an effective option for your situation.

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