World Wide Technology Settles Discrimination Suit

Top B.E. 100s company may face more cases in future

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world-wide-techWhen 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.

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  • DLBryant

    This is what happens when white racists control the day-to-day management of american corporations….this is especially shameful when they pull this crap at african-american owned corportaions……they have no shame!!

  • BRose

    I was employed at an african-american owned company and witnessed the same form of discrimination— whites in charge and blacks just worker bees. I think it is a form of self hatred for blacks to treat their own people like that once they have an opportunity to make a difference………

  • rashid el amin

    This is a rotten shame that i own company discriminate against their own people.

  • Marcello

    If you cannot give opportunity to your own people to emerge, rarely someone else will do.

    I am however curious to understand why black who has made it rely heavily on white boards to run their business?

    I Have tried so far to find an answer to this question. I have started to have an answer that I do not want to believe that much: Business is relations & numbers. You need to look how many businesses and the proportion of people running it could determine where contracts can go.

    If this is a reliable answer,then I believe that black owners are looking over to build a real structure that would help their own people to emerge as well.


  • Kevin

    I happen to work at WWT (not at the Austin site but rather the HQ’s in St.Louis) As mentioned in the article our chairman and VP of HR are both African-American. On top of that, we have many African-American’s who are critical to our success and well paid account managers and faces of our company. I believe this is an isolated incident (if that at all) which is followed by copy-cat like tendancies…WWT is a GREAT company to work for across the board and the inter-racial relationships is a huge key to our success!

  • Pottedmeat

    Well , I also worked at WWT/Austin and was fired because behind this supervisor. She gave us permission to take scrap material from this whse. In all seven people was given permission to take this material. But three of us got fired and she also was fired but the other three people still have their job. They have given us scrap or sarf material in the past. We was told since we sold this material , that we made a profit off WWT. How can WWT claim profit off something that has zero dollar value to them.Yes , thier are issues at WWT / Austin.But what company doesn’t.Right now at WWT/Austin you can count on 1 hand how many blacks work for them.

  • king

    I currently Work at wwt/edwardsville. its amazing how a white man could call a Black man a nigger, lose his job,and return to Work for the company within 5 months. I cant speak for the company as a whole,but at the location i Work at is a racist hell hole. They need to fire all managers from top to bottom.