Black Workers In California Allege Their Latino Co-Workers Would Write Things On Bathroom Walls Like ‘Gorillas, Go Back To Africa' In Lawsuit
Photo Credit: Jakayla Toney

Black Workers In California Allege Their Latino Co-Workers Would Write Things On Bathroom Walls Like ‘Gorillas, Go Back To Africa' In Lawsuit

If “I know you lying” was a situation, it would be one where Black employees are the constant target of racism, discrimination, and blatant disrespect.

There is no secret that America has a problem. Shoot, the world has a problem with Black people. Deeply rooted in inaccurate tropes, systems created for oppression, and perspectives shaped around negativity – Black people, constantly have to figure out how to navigate spaces not designed for their success.

And while many are aware of the treatment mentioned above that can sometimes happen from white people to Black people; the LA Times recently reported that workplace abuse toward Black people is becoming more rampant among Latino colleagues.

Same Show, Different Actors

While most workplace discrimination and harassment against Black people still come from white predators, the LA Times reports that instances of anti-Black bias are growing among Latinos.

The Latinos make up 19 percent of the United States population, and  39 percent in the state of California. And while Latin people are also subject to racial discrimination in the workplace and abroad, two of the most significant cases brought by the federal government in California were regarding alleged abuse of Black employees at warehouses of Inland Empire, one of California’s major distribution hubs.

The report found from interviews that a majority of racist insults and slurs came from Latino co-workers and management staff in the Ontario and Moreno Valley facilities. Based on court filings, one of those consistent slurs was the Spanish slang for the N-word, “m-yate.”

“They said it in English — they said it in Spanish all the time,” Leon Simmons explained to the LA Times. “When they look you right in the eye and call you the N-word to your face, that’s dehumanizing.”

Take It To Court

Several lawsuits with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim supervisors at Cardinal Health and Ryder Integrated Logistics – in addition to their staffing firms – regularly disregarded harassment made in Spanish and English at their Inland Empire warehouses. In addition to ignoring the harassment, court documents state that Black employees were given more demanding jobs, were not provided training, and did receive adequate professional development.

Simmons, a former Cardinal employee, described some of the specific harassment he received as an employee. Firstly, he noted that AppleOne initially hired him to drive a cherry picker at Cardinal for $14 per hour. However, since, ordinarily given to less experienced Latino employees, Simmons was hired for the more rigid floor picker job at $12 an hour, a more strenuous position for a man in his mid-50s.

Simmons constantly complained and said that his Latino supervisor would force him to clean up trash while others would be sent home at the end of the day. In addition to the unfair work practices, he specifically recalled racist incidents that received little to no course correction.

“They’d write stuff on the bathroom walls — ‘gorillas, go back to Africa.’ The Black workers would cross it out. Two days later, it would be right back,” Simmons explained.

A Sense Of Justice?

Many Black employees felt like they had to quit due to “intolerable working conditions created by the hostile work environment,” the lawsuits allege. Cardinal, Ryder, and the associated temp agencies denied these allegations. However, with many Black employees coming forward and EEOC interviews describing the incidents, the companies settled the suits instead of going through a jury trial.

“We are seeing an increase in larger race harassment cases,” Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles district office, told the LA Times. “The nature of them has gotten uglier. There’s a more blatant display of hatred with the N-word, with imagery, with nooses. All the violence you’re seeing in the news, it is manifesting in the employment context.”

While money cannot correct the wrongs done to the Black employees, about 300 former workers are receiving compensation in the range of tens of thousands of dollars as a part of the settlement from the Inland Empire.

“Cardinal agreed to pay $1.45 million. Ryder and Kimco Staffing Services, which supplied workers to Ryder, settled for $1 million each,” the outlet reports.