Distribution company Aaron Thomas Co. Inc. and its staffing provider, Supreme Staffing LLC, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by denying individuals employment on the basis of race, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 22.

Both firms are based in Memphis, Tennessee.

The case highlights critical considerations for contingent workforce program managers. Buyers should ensure they work with staffing firms that comply with the law for their hiring practices.

The EEOC’s recent lawsuit states that since January 2018, Aaron Thomas and Supreme Staffing neglected to refer and employ Black candidates for low-skilled positions. It also alleges that Aaron Thomas specifically requested Hispanic candidates for certain roles, and Supreme Staffing complied by referring and hiring individuals based on unlawful criteria.

Additionally, the EEOC alleges that both entities segregated and assigned Black employees to less favorable, lower-paying positions and terminated them on the basis of race.

The EEOC initiated legal proceedings in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division, following attempts to reach a settlement through conciliation.

The agency is now seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for affected individuals and an injunction against future discriminatory practices.

The allegations follow similar ones brought against Supreme Staffing last year. In September 2022, Supreme Staffing faced legal action in the case EEOC v. Supreme Staffing, LLC, et al. The EEOC filed this latest lawsuit as a related case to last year’s legal action, in which it alleged that Supreme Staffing, along with subsidiaries Inspire Hotel Staffing LLC and Better Placement LLC, violated federal civil rights law when they engaged in discrimination in the selection, referral, placement and assignment of employees based on race.

“Memphis is known as America’s distribution center and is home to more than 100 warehouse logistics services,” Edmond Sims, acting director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, said in a press release. “Staffing agencies and their clients often work hand in hand in hiring employees, and both have a duty to ensure that their hiring practices are not discriminatory. The EEOC remains committed to ensuring that all applicants, regardless of race, have equal opportunity in the workplace.”