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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
1-20-10

Early Agreement on Decree Ends EEOC Race Case Against Medical Device Supplier

Federal Agency Lauds Conmed Linvatec for Quickly Resolving Case With $250,000 Award and Reinstatement

CHICAGO – A federal judge has entered a consent decree resolving a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Conmed Linvatec, a Utica, N.Y.-based international medical device corporation specializing in orthopedics and general surgery.  Based upon an administrative investigation managed by EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, the agency had alleged that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by terminating Paul Hickman from its Midwest office in Elmhurst, Ill., on account of his race.

Under the consent decree, entered by Judge John Darrah of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Conmed Linvatec will pay Hickman $250,000 and reinstate him to his former position, although now in the Fort Worth, Texas office.  In addition, the decree enjoins Conmed Linvatec from engaging in race discrimination or retaliation in the office to which Hickman will be reinstated, requires that the company train all managers who will be responsible for employment decisions with respect to Hickman on the requirements of Title VII, and mandates that the company report complaints of race discrimination in the office to which Hickman will be reinstated to the EEOC.

“The EEOC is satisfied that this employer now clearly understands that race discrimination is unacceptable and illegal,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.  “We also are gratified that vigorous enforcement on the Commission’s part has led to appropriate corrective action and compensation for the victim here.”

John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, noted that the settlement had been negotiated before the parties engaged in extended litigation or pre-trial discovery.  He said, “Early resolution of the case is good news for everyone.  The parties have avoided the delay and costs associated with protracted litigation.  Mr. Hickman -- an experienced and productive employee -- is back on the job and is receiving compensation for his loss sooner rather than later.  Corrective measures have been put in place.”

Laurie Elkin, the EEOC trial attorney responsible for the litigation, said, “We appreciate Conmed Linvatec’s determination to work with the EEOC in quickly resolving the issues raised by the case, in remedying Mr. Hickman’s situation, and in undertaking measures to assure compliance with Title VII.  In our experience, employers who, like Conmed, really focus on conscientiously addressing issues of discrimination virtually always fare better than those who get drawn into heavy-duty litigation of those issues.”

The case was filed by the EEOC on April 8, 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.  The case was designated Civil Action No. 09 C 2158. The consent decree was entered by the court January 11, 2010.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.