A class-action lawsuit was filed against a nation-wide staffing company that alleges that black Americans were subjected to illegal discrimination. The filing alleges that Latino workers were preferred over the black Americans. At a branch of MVP Staffing in Cicero, Illinois, a series of related code words were allegedly used to identify job applicants according to their race and/or ethnicity, according to the Chicago Tribune. The staffing company thus secretly complied with the wishes of its clients that refused to hire blacks as temporary workers.
The lawsuit alleges that the term “guapos” (which in Spanish means handsome or pretty males) was used to refer to black Americans, suggesting that they did not want to dirty themselves with work. In contrast, “feos” (ugly ones) and “ bilingues” (bilinguals) were the words used to describe Latino applicants. Clients specifically requested Latino workers by calling on MVP Staffing to hire applicants who listen to 107.9 FM, a radio station that broadcasts in Spanish.
In an interview with The New York Times, former MVP dispatcher Rosa Ceja said, “That was the code word for us to only send Mexicans.” She said that the code words were spoken in Spanish because almost “all of the managers” who did not wish to hire blacks were Latino. Ceja also said that those who used the words “Black” or “Mexican” in company correspondence could be terminated for failing to use the code words.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, former MVP employee Pamela Sanchez said she was directly instructed not to send black applicants to employers and to stamp “DNR” (Do Not Return) on their applications.
Among the defendants, besides MVP Staffing (a.k.a. Personnel Staffing Group) are: ARI Packaging, Blommer Chocolate Co., Jet Lithocolor, Lawrence Foods, Mercury Plastics, MPS Chicago, the Penray Cos., Segerdahl Graphics, in addition to others in the Chicago metropolitan area.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit recalled that there was “tension” at the MVP office in Cicero, while he noted that the majority of the staff were “Mexican” and “not very welcoming of African-American job applicants.”
Christopher Williams of the Workers’ Law Office, who is of counsel to the plaintiffs, has filed discrimination lawsuits against other agencies in the past. He has claimed that discrimination of this sort is becoming more and more common in the fast-growing temporary-staffing industry. The many illegal immigrants in the workforce in the Chicago area are less likely to complain about unfair treatment or poor wages, he said. There are enough temporary jobs in the area, said Williams, for those willing to work. Cicero is no predominantly Latino, with a small percentage of black Americans. Williams said that 98 percent of job assignments are given to Latinos.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for black Americans is approximately 14%, nearly three times the rate for whites and nearly double the rate for Latinos (7.8%). Illinois has one of the highest rates of unemployment for black Americans.