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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-19-13

EEOC Sues Izza Bending Tube & Wire for Retaliation over Race Bias Complaint

Agency Says Buffalo, Minn., Company Manager Told to Get Rid of Worker Because of Race

MINNEAPOLIS - A Buffalo, Minn., metal services company violated federal law by demoting and then firing a production manager for refusing to discriminate against an African-American employee because of his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. 

According to the EEOC's suit against Izza Bending Tube & Wire, Inc., in August 2011, Myrna Peltonen recommended to Scott Landgraf, Izza's manager, that the firm offer permanent employment to Randall Smith, a temporary employee who had worked for the company successfully for 500 hours.  Landgraf allegedly instructed her not to hire Smith, using derogatory racist language, and directed her to get rid of him.  When she refused to do so, she was demoted to an office position and her salary was cut.  After she filed a discrimination charge with EEOC, she was laid off and then terminated.

Retaliation for opposing employment discrimination or for filing a charge with the EEOC violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Izza Bending Tube & Wire, Inc., Civil Action No. 0:13-cv-02570, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. 

John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Minnesota, said, "Federal law protects individuals who oppose on-the-job practices they reasonably believe are unlawful as well as those who file charges with EEOC.  Challenging retaliatory discharges helps to make sure the system which the law provides for dealing with discrimination not only survives but actually works."

John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, said, "Retaliation charges continue to be among the most common kind received by the EEOC.  They pose a continuing challenge for us -- and one we are absolutely determined to meet."  

In this case, the EEOC is seeking injunctive relief that will require Izza to adopt an effective anti-retaliation policy that complies with federal law and will seek back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Peltonen.

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

Izza specializes in metal manufacturing and fabrication services, including metal pipe bending and cutting.

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