Andrew Smith worked in Peoria as a garbage truck driver for Waste
On March 4, 2003, he backed out of a driveway and hit another vehicle. On March 21, he hit a gas meter while moving a waste container. On April 7, the hook on his truck snared the hood of another vehicle. On July 7, he snagged an overhead wire while lifting a container over the cab of his truck.
By then, Waste Management had had enough. The company fired Smith, but he filed a grievance with his union. The company reinstated him under a last-chance agreement. The following May, he sideswiped a sign and was terminated again.
He sued. Sounds like getting the case dismissed would be a slam-dunk, so to speak. Wrong! In court, Smith, who is white, claimed that the company disciplined him more severely than similarly accident-prone black employees.
His examples: One driver hit a car after running a stop sign and twice tore down wires, all without discipline. Another had four accidents in just nine months and four more the following year. Two others hit several objects and also yanked wires from their poles. Another driver pulled down wires, damaged a church and caused a collision. Yet another damaged gates and hit a parked car. Smith said they all got off without punishment.
The court noted that Waste Management had no set criteria for what constituted a chargeable accident, and found that “the record would support the reasonable inference that [Waste Management’s] policies and practices shifted depending on the race of the driver.”
Waste Management will head to court to defend its discipline process against charges of discrimination.
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