Austin, Texas – A Texas waste management company unlawfully discriminated against Latino workers, according to a federal lawsuit filed by a Latino civil rights group.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) is suing American AllWaste LLC and its subsidiary Wastewater Transport Services on behalf of a Latino employee who was hired as a tanker driver but then required to perform taxing work unrelated to driving, that white drivers were not required to perform.
“Confining Latino skilled workers to the most dangerous and dirty work is a longstanding mechanism of discrimination against the Latino community,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Such unlawful segregation in the workplace holds back our economy from realizing its full potential, so it must be ended for the benefit of all.”
At issue is AllWaste’s disparate treatment of Latino employees.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Edward Lopez, of Hutto. In 2021, he was hired by American AllWaste as a Class A truck driver for Wastewater Transport Services. Lopez, 43, who had 15 years of experience, believed he would only be driving a waste-hauling truck. When he was hired, the company told him that new employees were required to spend two weeks cross-training with the team that collected and hauled waste from neighborhood sewers.
Performed by what is called a “vactor crew”, waste-vacuuming is a dirty, physical job performed mostly by Latino employees of the company, according to the lawsuit. Vactor workers feed metal tubes that can weigh up to 480 pounds into a sewage collection station and then connect the tubes to a suction hose attached to the truck. The job can be dangerous, and the company does not provide safety harnesses or other equipment to prevent a worker from falling into a hole. This work also pays less than the tanker-driver position for which Lopez was hired.
At the end of two weeks, Lopez asked to start his job as a tanker driver. He was told that he would remain on the vactor crew because he was doing a good job. AllWaste then hired two white drivers who had less experience than Lopez and were not required to train with the vactor crew.
After working on the waste-vacuuming crew for two months, Lopez complained to the company’s human resources department. After he complained, the company drastically cut his hours and reduced his pay, the suit states.
In a meeting with management, Lopez told the supervisor he was looking for another job. The supervisor told Lopez the company was firing him immediately and did not give a reason for his termination.
“Racial discrimination in the workplace in any form, including under the guise of prerequisite training, will not be tolerated,” said Fátima Menéndez, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel. “It is an honor to represent Mr. Lopez in his courageous pursuit to hold American AllWaste LLC and WasteWater Transport Services accountable for operating a discriminatory workplace.”
The lawsuit argues AllWaste’s treatment of Lopez and its retaliatory action violate Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. MALDEF attorneys are seeking lost wages for Lopez as well as a change in the company’s practices and policies.
“It’s difficult to believe that Latinos are still treated unfairly in the workplace because of the color of our skin,” said Lopez. “I am standing up for the right to be treated fairly by an employer. What happened to me should not happen to anybody else.”
Read the complaint HERE.