Wyatt Duvall worked as a home delivery man for the Sun-Sentinel between April 2006 and October 2010. The business wasn't new to him: when the Boca Raton resident had pulled stints hauling dead trees throughout his life, including runs in California, his native-Kentucky, and at the now-shuttered Boca News.
With a long resume, Duvall figured he'd have an easy time jumping the ranks to a district coordinator position at the Sentinel's Deerfield Beach distribution center.
But when openings came, Duvall claims he was twice passed over for less qualified candidates who were Hispanic. In one situation, Duvall says he tried to apply for the position, but was simply ignored.
The prejudice continued when it came to dishing out the better paying routes, Duvall says. African-American and Hispanic supervisors consistently gave the best gigs to other minorities, leaving Duvall with the low-paying leftovers. He began taking notes on instances of racial preference. Once he left the paper in 2010, he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"I wanted the EEOC to do an investigation so I would have a third party opinion," Duvall says. "I felt like I had to do it, it was so obvious."
But there was a hitch. Under the EEOC guidelines, the kind of employment protection Duvall was looking for was available to full-time employees, not independent contractors. The Sun-Sentinel -- like almost all papers -- classifies its carriers as the latter. When Duvall dug in on the fine print of what defines full-timers, he became convinced that paper haulers had been put in the wrong category entirely.
Using the legal knowledge he picked up after a year of law school, Duvall eventually pulled his EEOC complaint and filed a suit in federal court not only alleging the prejudice but challenging the employment status of all carriers. He's done the legal work himself, citing the requisite case law and precedent.
"I believe if [the court] reads what I've said, they'll understand," he said.
The Sun-Sentinel's parent, the Tribune Company, declined to comment on the suit.