When Earnest Ryals filed a $3.5 million racial discrimination lawsuit against his former employer back in November 2007, the surprising fact about the lawsuit was that he and the co-founder of the accused company are both African American. A few weeks later, Clifford Smith, also a black employee, filed a similar complaint against St. Louis, Missouri-based World Wide Technology Inc. (No.1 on the B.E. Industrial/Service 100 list with $2.5 billion in sales).
Separate trials were slated to go before juries this month after a U.S. District Court judge denied World Wide Technology’s motion to dismiss Ryals’ case. Now, the disputes have been settled out of court.
Ryals, 35, and Smith, 50, received their checks from World Wide Technology March 11 after negotiations that were held at the end of February. “The case was settled to all parties’ satisfaction,” says Scott V. Allen, the attorney who represented both plaintiffs. Because of the settlements’ confidentiality agreements, no details were divulged about the dollar amounts the men received.
Ryals and Smith worked at the World Wide Technology facility in Austin, Texas that supplies parts to Dell Computer Co. In January 2006, Ryals led dozens of coworkers with grievances that alleged discrimination at this work site. Subsequently passed over for a promotion that was given to a white woman, Ryals was fired in April 2007, accused of sexually harassing a Hispanic female subordinate.
One charge that has been leveled at the country’s largest African American-owned firm is that management positions are dominated by whites and that very few blacks hold high-ranking positions. David Steward, chairman of the board, is African American, as is human resources vice president Ann Marr.
When questioned about the lawsuit and employee advancement, World Wide Technology spokesperson Edward Levens said, “World Wide Technology has no comment. The company does not make public statements on personnel or legal matters.”
Though other World Wide Technology workers had filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, lawyer Allen did not attempt to get class-action status for the lawsuit. However, more racial discrimination court cases against the company may, however, be coming in the future.