U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Decatur Sheet Metal / HVAC Company Allowed Verbal Harassment and a Physical Attack Against Black Hispanic Employee, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - Decatur, Ill.-based company King-Lar will pay $325,000 to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC accused King-Lar, which provides custom sheet metal and HVAC work, of allowing its white employees to verbally harass and threaten a black employee of Puerto Rican origin, which ultimately led to a brutal physical assault. The national origin and color harassment allegedly included slurs such as "s..c," "n....r," "Mexican n----r," and "wetback." The EEOC also claimed that King-Lar management, including one of its owners, knew about the discrimination and failed to act to stop it.
Harassment against an employee because of his race, color or national origin violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit against King-Lar on Aug. 19, 2015, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC v. King-Lar, Co, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-03238, is pending before U.S. District Judge Bruce in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division.
"As this case makes clear, tolerating harassment can have serious consequences," said EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour. "The EEOC will defend the rights of all employees to be free from this sort of cruel misconduct in the workplace."
Julie Bowman, district director of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, added, "We are grateful that the employee had the courage to bring this to the EEOC's attention. This kind of harassment is unconscionable and unlawful, and the EEOC is here to fight it."
In addition to providing for the $325,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit mandates that King-Lar have a system where employees can complain anonymously online or to a 1-800 number; train its employees on harassment and discrimination; and make clear that King-Lar will take allegations of discrimination seriously.
The EEOC's trial team was composed of Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour, Supervisor Diane Smason, and Trial Attorneys Jeanne Szromba and Laura Feldman. The underlying discrimination charge was investigated by EEOC Enforcement Supervisor Monique Debussmann and Investigator Benjamin Arnold.
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 advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.