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Press Release 09-29-2011

Sutter Transfer Service Sued for Race Harassment

Supervisor Harassed Truck Drivers With Racist Slurs, Says EEOC 

SAN FRANCISCO — Yuba City-based Sutter Transfer Service violated federal law by allowing a supervisor to harass employees with racial epithets, including the trucking company's only African-American driver, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's investigation, driver Lonnie Winstead was targeted by his dispatcher with racially offensive comments such as "coon," "gorilla," "porch monkey," and "n----r."  He also heard slurs directed at other ethnic groups, including "raghead," "sand n----r" and "wetback."  Other truck drivers witnessed the racial harassment and one even complained to management, but Sutter still failed to take effective action and the harassment continued, said the agency.

"Growing up in the South, I knew racism, but working in California, I didn't expect to be treated that way," said Winstead.  "I just wanted to do my job, but I had to listen to these racist comments almost every day from the person who gave us our work dispatch. As the only black truck driver at Sutter, I was mortified to hear these stereotypes.  It hurt."

Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement, the EEOC filed suit in the Sacramento Division of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (EEOC v. Sutter Transfer Service, Inc.), and seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Winstead and other drivers exposed to the racial invectives, as well as management training on anti-discrimination laws and other injunctive relief.

EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "Sutter Transfer Service was put on notice for a supervisor's racial harassment but failed to take it seriously.  Employers are liable for the actions of their supervisors, and are required by law to take prompt and appropriate action to end workplace discrimination."

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, "Supporting a supervisor who spouts racist slurs is not only illegal, but it's bad business, given the diverse work force and customer base of the Bay Area."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at