Wal-Mart Settles Trucker Discrimination Lawsuit

February 23, 2009

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said Friday it had settled for $17.5 million a class action lawsuit in which plaintiffs claimed the retailer had discriminated against African Americans seeking jobs as truck drivers.

Wal-Mart denied allegations that it had discriminated “on the basis of race in recruitment and hiring for the position of over-the-road truck driver in Wal-Mart’s private fleet,” according to a joint statement.

The settlement is subject to court approval.

The federal case was brought in 2004 by a Mississippi man, Daryal Nelson, and aimed at Wal-Mart distribution centers in the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.

It subsequently achieved class action status.

In legal documents, Nelson had claimed that besides a commercial drivers’ license, a good record and good work history, he was required by Wal-Mart to have a good credit rating to qualify for a position as a truck driver.

Nelson’s lawsuit stated that this unwritten work requirement was selectively applied to favor white applicants.

According to the original lawsuit, a human resources director told Nelson that he would be hired as a laborer, rather than a truck driver because of his “gut feeling” that the applicant had falsified his credit and driving records.

After Nelson filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said there was reasonable cause to believe a violation had occurred.

Under terms of the settlement, the world’s largest retailer is required to establish benchmark hiring goals so that the composition of future hires by race is proportionate to the racial makeup of the applicant pool.

It would also have to select a diversity recruiter and enhance its recruitment efforts and advertising to African Americans, among other prerequisites, under the terms. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; editing by Gunna Dickson, Bernard Orr)

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