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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
3-28-12

EEOC Sues Sparx Restaurant for Race Discrimination and Retaliation

Menomonie  ‘Family Restaurant’ Fired Employee for Objecting to Noose, KKK Imagery, Federal Agency Charged

MILWAUKEE – The owners of Sparx, a Menomonie, Wis., restaurant,  violated the law when managers posted racist imagery and then fired an  African-American employee after he complained, the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on March 27, 2012. 

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Dion Miller arrived for his  regularly scheduled shift at the restaurant to find taped to the cooler a  picture of African-American actor Gary Coleman and a dollar bill which had been  defaced such that a noose was around the neck of George Washington, whose face  had been blackened. Also on the dollar  bill were swastikas and the image of a man in a Ku Klux Klan hood. Sparx managers told Miller that they had  posted the images the evening before but, when Miller complained, insisted that  it was “a joke.” Miller was terminated  within weeks of complaining about the racist imagery, for allegedly having “a  bad attitude.” The EEOC charged that Sparx  in fact terminated Miller in retaliation for opposing race discrimination.

Such alleged  conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against the restaurant’s  owners, Northern Star Hospitality, Inc., in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Civil Action  No. 12-cv-214) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through  its conciliation process. The EEOC is  seeking injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination, as well as back  pay, reinstatement, and compensatory and punitive damages.

“Sparx bills itself as a ‘family restaurant’ even as its  managers posted imagery which evokes shameful memories of racially motivated  physical attacks and lynchings,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for  the Chicago  district of the EEOC. “Sparx then made a  bad situation worse by firing the man who had the guts to stand up to it. The EEOC will stand up for people like Dion  Miller.”

The EEOC's Chicago  District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges,  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.