XPO Logistics provides supply chain workers, such as truckers and inventory clerks, to major corporations including Verizon, Disney and Pepsi
Eight current and former workers at a Memphis warehouse operated by the global supply firm XPO Logistics said they were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliated against for filing claims against their supervisors, prompting an investigation by Verizon, which contracts the facility.
The women accused nine different supervisors by name. Two of the women said they were retaliated against for making harassment claims, according to complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The women, which include current and former employees, allege the incidents occurred between October 2014 and March 2018.
One of the women who complained, Angela Caldwell, said in an EEOC complaint that she was retaliated against after reporting a supervisor who she said had rubbed against her and told her he liked how she looked in work pants.
Another woman, Annie Whilhite, had been a temporary employee at New Breed Logistics, the predecessor to XPO Logistics, in August 2014 and was made a staff employee about five months later, according to the EEOC complaint. She left the company in January “due to work pressures and discriminatory treatment”, the complaint said.
XPO Logistics provides supply chain workers, such as truckers and inventory clerks, to major corporations including Verizon, Disney and Pepsi. The company said that at this stage in the investigation it had no evidence that the EEOC claims were true.
“We take any allegation of misconduct seriously,” an XPO spokesperson said in a statement. “When we learned about claims in one of our facilities in Memphis, we immediately retained a third party to conduct a thorough investigation. The investigation is almost complete and, to date, there’s no evidence to support the allegations of sexual harassment.”
The workers rights legal group A Better Balance is providing legal representation to one of the women who filed a complaint. The group also provided a list of recommendations to XPO on how it could improve its harassment reporting practices and is encouraging XPO employees who have experienced harassment to contact its hotline.
The sexual harassment claims are part of a flurry of other informal complaints made against the warehouse by an employee and the Teamsters trade union.
“Those products are reaching them with our blood, sweat and tears, and some of our last breaths,” Lakeisha Nelson, an inventory curator for the Memphis warehouse, told the Guardian.
The most alarming allegation made by Nelson was that an employee who died of a heart attack on the warehouse floor in October 2017 had been denied a break by her supervisors before collapsing. Some of the coworkers of the woman, Linda Neal, approached the Teamsters with concerns about the circumstances around her death.
Nelson said it was unusual for Neal to ask for a break and should have been a red flag to her supervisors that something was wrong.
“Linda doesn’t ask to go home, she never leaves,” Nelson said. “She is always volunteering to stay because she has kids and grandkids to take care of.”
The XPO spokesperson said Neal’s death: “is now being shamefully exploited through a distortion of information by a labor union in its effort to organize workers at this facility”.
“Here are the facts: when our employee collapsed, we immediately called emergency services and cleared the area for first responders,” the spokesperson said. “EMTs were on the scene within 10 minutes, and we complied with their direction to restrict access until the Memphis police arrived. Our colleague’s passing was upsetting to everyone, especially her co-workers, who were told they could go home for the rest of the day.”
Nelson said she had previously raised concerns about the circumstances around Neal’s death and sexual harassment in the warehouse with Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam at the company’s shareholder meeting earlier this month because its phones and other products are shipped out of the warehouse.
In a 2 May letter to XPO Logistics, attorneys for Verizon said: “As we discussed, we expect frequent and prompt updates on the progress of your investigation and any measures that XPO plans to take if these allegations are substantiated. We will be monitoring XPO’s actions in response to this matter closely, and it will inform the basis of any decisions Verizon makes regarding the future of our contractual relationship with XPO.”
“We continue to work closely with XPO in investigating the accusations that we were levied and that’s ongoing,” said James Gerace, a spokesperson for Verizon.
On Thursday of last week, Neal’s son, Dean Turner, and Nelson brought their concerns directly to XPO Logistics CEO Bradley Jacobs at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in a Rye Brook, New York, country club.
“I’m not interested in finding a new job; I want this one to be better and suitable for me to work in,” Nelson said. “And not just me, the generations behind me need a decent place to work with respect and safety”
Ashley Latimer, a communications specialist for the Teamsters, said the CEO was sitting in front of the group and did not turn around when they spoke or respond directly to their questions, which were handled by other senior management figures. “It was like we were talking to a wall,” Latimer said.