A white United Parcel Service employee from Long Beach was not wrongfully fired in 2017 to appease a Latino employee, a jury found Wednesday.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about a day before rejecting the claims of 47-year-old Mason McConn, a former UPS dispatcher, for wrongful termination, racial discrimination, retaliation and defamation.
The jury initially appeared to have found that McConn was defamed by negative remarks made about his character in the workplace, prompting Judge Yolanda Orozco to send the panel back into the jury room to deliberate further and clarify their conclusions. However, shortly thereafter, the jury sent the judge a note saying they found that UPS management used reasonable care in trying to determine the truth or falsity of the statements.
Jurors later interviewed by lawyers outside the courtroom repeated that explanation, adding that while some of the statements about McConn may have been false, the company acted properly in investigating whether they were accurate or not.
The jurors also said that although they did not believe UPS did everything right, there was no evidence McConn was a victim of racial discrimination or retaliation.
Trial testimony showed that the Latino employee who repeatedly clashed with McConn, UPS driver Pedro Flores, was supervised by McConn.
“Mr. Flores’ goal was always to get Mr. McConn fired,” plaintiff’s attorney J. Bernard Alexander said in his opening statement.
According to Alexander, McConn worked for UPS for 12 years and his job was to supervise drivers at the Ontario facility who distributed freight throughout Los Angeles County. McConn was well liked by drivers and management, who commended him for his work, the attorney said.
Although profanity was commonly used by those who worked on the UPS dock, the company used two incidents of McConn using foul language twice within 11 months as a pretext to fire him, Alexander said.
A shortage of drivers prompted McConn to assign more work to those in the UPS work force, which angered Flores, according to Alexander.
When the plaintiff assigned Flores work, Flores became insubordinate and asked why the tasks were not given to white drivers, according to Alexander.
Flores called McConn a racist, alleged that McConn discriminated against him and said the plaintiff brushed against him during one incident, according to Alexander.
Flores threatened to sue McConn and to take away his home in the process, Alexander said.
UPS, citing the allegations that McConn used profanity in the workplace, ultimately fired him in 2017 because the company was more concerned about a threat of a lawsuit by Flores than facing the truth, Alexander said.
Many of McConn’s former co-workers of many different races circulated a petition after his firing demanding he be reinstated, but the company refused to give him his job back, according to Alexander.
Flores went on a leave from UPS in 2016 and never returned, Alexander said.
UPS attorney William B. Hill said McConn did not lose his job because he is white, but instead, due to his “unprofessional conduct in managing employees.”
The attorney cited two clashes McConn had with Flores and a third with another UPS employee, saying his conduct fell below the standards of what are expected of a manager in his position. Hill also said McConn admitted he may have brushed against Flores during one of the incidents between them.
Hill said McConn was repeatedly counseled by a human resources manager for his interactions with the two workers, but to no avail. He also said UPS investigated complaints McConn made and took them seriously.