United Road Towing, a company with a multimillion dollar monopoly towing cars for the Phoenix Police Department, has a questionable track record of dealing with its employees -- and its subsidiaries have been under federal scrutiny.
The company agreed in June to pay $380,000 to 13 individuals who complained that it discriminated against disabled employees. And last year, the company threatened to sue employees who landed better-paying jobs with one of its competitors.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit against the company September 30, 2009, saying United Road Towing "failed to provide reasonable accommodations to a class of employees with disabilities" in Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
The complaint highlighted United Road Towing's "inflexible medical leave policy and practice of terminating employees with disabilities at the end of medical leaves rather bringing them back to work with reasonable accommodation."
And the company still is considered a strong contender to win at least part of the Phoenix towing contract again, say political insiders.
According to the settlement, the company is prohibited from "discriminating against those with disabilities and requires the implementation of a reasonable accommodations policy [and] requires training...for the company's management."
There wasn't always a towing monopoly in Phoenix with such companies.
The city used to have more than one towing company that responded to calls from Phoenix cops to move disabled cars off the road, tow away wreckage after a car collision, or impound a drunk driver's wheels.
But in 2006, it decided to go with one company citywide -- United Road Towing, which does business in the Phoenix area as several different companies, including Shamrock Towing, Fast Towing, and All Valley Impound.
The contract started December 1, 2006 and was set to expire May 31, but citing problems with the first request for bids, city officials decided to keep United on as the sole towing company hauling off cars on behalf of Phoenix PD.
On May 30, the Phoenix City Council gave United Road Towing an eight-month extension on its expiring six-year contract. The extension now expires on January 31, and it worth about $46,000.
In a September 2011 article, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts smacked around United Road Towing for using heavy-handed tactics against their former employees who landed better paying jobs at All City Towing, a Phoenix-area company vying for a piece of that multimillion towing contract.
During a Phoenix City Council subcommittee meeting in 2011, Angela Dominguez revealed that United Road Towing was threatening to sue her for getting a job with their competitor, saying she had signed a non-compete clause.
With that multi-million-dollar towing contract now on the table -- and set to be awarded by the end of the year -- Roberts says how United Road Towing treats its employee is "something for the Phoenix City Council to think about."
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She says, "Why on Earth would the city want to do business with a company that hires lawyers to stop its $10-an-hour employees from finding better jobs?"
Hard to say, but it's not surprising.
After all, Phoenix keeps doing business with Veolia Transportation, a French-based transit company that operates city buses and has its own track record of bullying its employees into signing away their rights, unjustly locks them out of the bus yard in the middle of contract negotiations, and even changed its in an attempt to not honor its agreements with longtime employees.