Trucker sues former employer for unequal pay, racial discrimination

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A Pennsylvania trucker has filed a lawsuit against his former employer for racial discrimination. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney claims the company did not pay the driver, a black man, the same pay as his white counterparts.

Donald Byrd began driving for Baker Hughes in February 2010 as a full-time equipment operator, according to federal court documents. Houston-based Baker Hughes is one of the world’s largest oilfield service companies with 39,000 employees in more than 80 countries, according to its website.

Despite Byrd’s claims of performing well, Baker Hughes gave him a final written warning in August 2013 for disobeying instructions. Byrd was told not to drive any commercial vehicles or heavy equipment since the company claimed he did not drive safely.

Approximately two months after receiving the final warning, Byrd took time off work due to surgery and returned as an equipment operator without restrictions in February 2014. Baker Hughes assigned Byrd to drive a hazmat truck containing acid, despite recommendations from the final written warning.

Byrd’s attorney claims the trucker was denied the premium rate associated with driving a hazmat vehicle and the per diem given to white drivers. The lawsuit also claims Byrd did not receive equal wages for 14 days driving hazardous material on night shifts. Additionally, the plaintiff is accusing Baker Hughes of testing him for drugs more often than white drivers.

As early as March 2014, Byrd had complained to the company about racial discrimination. He was told a meeting would be scheduled with human resources, but no such meeting or corrective action was taken.

Byrd was placed on paid leave on May 6, 2014, but was not paid, according to the lawsuit. He was subsequently terminated with no explanation on May 16, 2014. Byrd received a letter that same day claiming he had refused to “run acid” on May 6, 2014. However, Byrd claims he informed a supervisor he was tired and was granted permission not to work.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as all legal costs.

The plaintiff’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment. The spokesperson for Baker Hughes declined to comment.

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