U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
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.