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Black UPS workers sue, claiming years of racially hostile environment

UPS said that it had taken disciplinary action against those employees found to have "engaged in inappropriate actions."

More than a dozen black workers at a United Parcel Service distribution center in Ohio filed a lawsuit against the distributor and several employees claiming managers promoted a racially hostile work environment and did not always take action when they reported it.

The suit was filed Wednesday in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in Toledo and details how 19 black UPS employees at a Maumee location claim their white co-workers used the N-word, talked about attending Ku Klux Klan meetings, displayed Confederate flags and hung nooses in the office.

During one incident in July 2016, a black worker said a white employee allegedly hung a noose above his work station while other employees and a supervisor made jokes. Although the white employee was fired, the other workers were not disciplined, according to the lawsuit.

The black employee also said he was told he could get in trouble for taking pictures on his cellphone of the noose and was told not to talk about what happened.

In another July 2016 incident, a black worker said he had received a group text message from white employees joking about buying a noose with money they won from a lottery. The text messages were reported to a manager, but no disciplinary action was taken.

UPS said in a statement to NBC News on Thursday that it had "discharged" two employees and took disciplinary action against others found to have "engaged in inappropriate actions." They did not say what disciplinary actions they took.

"Since that time, the company has participated in remedial actions in cooperation with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission so that employees are trained and our operations are monitored to ensure we maintain a positive work environment, free of harassment," a spokesperson for the company said.

The lawsuit also details two incidents in September 2016, in which a white employee said they were "late for a Klan meeting" and another refused to deliver a package to a predominately black neighborhood and then used a racist term to describe the area.

In February 2017, an employee said a white co-worker made a racially insensitive joke about black people and again no disciplinary action was taken.

Some of the incidents date back to 2013, according to the complaint.

"For decades, African-American employees of UPS have been subjected to a persistent and continuing racially hostile work environment. African-American employees are consistently subjected to racially driven and offensive comments, slurs, and 'jokes,' and subjected to hostile stares from white co-workers as well as increased scrutiny and demeaning comments from managers and supervisors," the lawsuit states.

The employees who filed the lawsuit also accused their managers of discriminating against them when it came to pay raises, promotions and other employment decisions.

"African-American employees are disproportionately employed by UPS in lower paying, strenuous, menial, part-time, or seasonal positions and systematically denied opportunities for higher paying, full-time, and supervisory positions," according to the lawsuit.

They are seeking compensatory damages exceeding $25,000 as well as an unspecified amount of punitive damages “to deter future unlawful conduct.”