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Blacks Sue Wal-Mart for Discrimination

LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ A federal lawsuit alleges Wal-Mart Stores Inc. discriminates against blacks seeking truck-driving jobs, a contention the world's largest retailer denies.

The suit, filed Wednesday by Daryal T. Nelson of Coldwater, Miss., in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, alleges that Wal-Mart rejects and discourages black applicants for truck-driving jobs at the chain's distribution centers in 12 Southern states.

The states are Arkansas,Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Nelson, who is seeking class-action status for his lawsuit, contends that, in May 2002, after he applied many times for a truck-driver position with the company, he was promised a job at a distribution center in Searcy.

But when he reported to an area director, as instructed by the company, the director told him he could work as a laborer, the suit said. Nelson said the area director used ``racial stereotyping'' in expressing ``a gut feeling'' that Nelson had falsified his credit rating and driving record.

Nelson filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An EEOC document attached to the complaint found ``reasonable cause'' to believe the 22-year, truck-driving veteran was discriminated against.

The EEOC said Nelson has a good driving record and noted that only one of the 20 drivers Bentonville-based Wal-Mart hired in 2002 was black. In addition, the EEOC said some of the white drivers had much less experience than Nelson and more serious trucking violations.

Gus Whitcomb, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said Wednesday that he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because he hadn't seen it. However, he said, ``We do not discriminate in our hiring practices.''

The suit asks that Wal-Mart be ordered not to discriminate and it seeks compensation for those who've been discriminated against and for would-be applicants who were discouraged from applying because of the company's practice.
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