Parking employees allege discrimination
By Deborah Sherman, 9News.com | December 24, 2008
Twenty-one workers for Wally Park Off-Site Parking filed complaints Tuesday at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming management discriminated against them because of their race and national origin.
They have all immigrated legally from Ethiopia.
The workers claim that Wally Park refuses to pay them equal wages compared to white employees and has illegally denied them pay for the overtime they have worked.
Driver Adane Alemu says when he was a dispatcher for six months the company paid him as a driver instead of the higher pay as a dispatcher, while the company paid the white workers the correct salary.
"One of the managers said that they don't need an African American as a dispatcher. They wanted white people only in dispatchers," said Alemu.
Teddy Ameda, who has been with Wally park two years, stopped being a manager after he says they pressured him to file false disciplinary reports against his fellow Ethiopian workers so that they would have reason to fire them.
"There's a lot of discrimination. Like every day, when you go there. We don't know if we are going to get fired working that day, so everybody works in fear," said Ameda.
Ameda says they gave him a choice to quit or become a driver, so he became a driver because he has a family to support.
Berhane Gebreamlak was a shift manager with a work schedule that allowed him to go to school in the morning. However, after he complained to management about some of their alleged discriminatory practices, Gebreamlak says they put him on a graveyard shift and gave his old shift to a white employee. The graveyard shift was supposed to pay one dollar more an hour, but Gebreamlak says he didn't receive the extra pay.
"It is very hard working in Wally Park. The only reason I work is I need the money and I have a family to support and as you know, the economy is not good," said Gebreamlak. "But it's my moral value to go forward with this, wherever it takes me."
"When we fly 8,000 miles away from home, we never expect the American dream and the American justice as very questions for me, I never expect this to happen," said Gebreamlak.
Greisen says the management also spoke rudely to the Ethiopians or ignored them all together.
"One of the Wally Park white senior manager even refuses to make eye contact with our clients. Dan refuses to even respond when he is spoken to by our clients," said Greisen. "When one of our clients had a cold and coughed, one of the management remarked to him that he should take care of his 'African disease.'"
Wally Park calls itself "Premier Airport Parking" that offers "white glove treatment," according to its Web site. Wally Park is owned by the L & R Group. Wally Park and the L & R Group did not return calls or e-mails from 9Wants to Know Tuesday about this story.
The 21 EEOC complaints will be investigated by the commission. If the EEOC find that there is probable cause that discrimination occurred, it can sue on behalf of Greisen's clients.
"We are hopeful that the involvement of the EEOC will bring to light the discriminatory treatment suffered by our clients and stop this pattern of illegal behavior," said Greisen.
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