Car Dealer Subjected Employees to Offensive Slurs Like 'Terrorist,' Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - The federal district court in Chicago has entered a consent decree requiring Rizza Buick GMC Cadillac, Inc., a Tinley Park car dealership, to pay $100,000 and provide other relief in order to resolve a national origin and religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Rizza Cadillac violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting three Arab Muslim employees to a hostile work environment based upon their national origin and religion. Rizza Cadillac is part of the Rizza cars conglomerate that includes eight new car franchises located throughout the Chicagoland area and that sells new and used vehicles online.
"What we found was that Rizza's managers allegedly used offensive slurs, such as 'terrorist,' 'sand n----r' and 'Hezbollah,' and made mocking and insulting references to the Qur'an and the manner in which Muslims pray," said John Rowe, the director of the federal agency's Chicago District Office, who supervised the EEOC's pre-suit administrative investigation.
Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, "Such hostile conduct is both the worst type of negative stereotyping on the basis of national origin and religion and exactly what Title VII was designed to remedy. Protecting all employees - whether Arab or Muslim or any other national origin or religion - from such harassment is at the heart of our statutory mission."
The affected employees will share $100,000 in monetary relief, and Rizza Cadillac will be taking affirmative steps to ensure a change in the work environment at the dealership, including providing training to all employees regarding compliance with Title VII; submitting periodic reports to the EEOC about any complaints of national origin or religious discrimination; and posting a notice regarding the outcome of the lawsuit on its employee bulletin board for two years.
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Gochanour said, "Obtaining this employer's cooperation in ensuring that no other employees face such treatment was critical to resolving this matter, and we are pleased that Rizza Cadillac was willing to face the future with new controls in place to help ensure compliance. Our agency's mission is served when an employer agrees to provide such relief."
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v.Rizza Cadillac et al., N.D. Ill. No. 13 cv 6696) Sept. 18, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case was originally assigned to District Judge John Tharp. The consent decree ending the case was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland on June 24, 2014.
The EEOC litigation team on the case was led by Supervisory Trial Attorney Greg Gochanour and included Trial Attorney Gordon Waldron. The affected employees were also represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who intervened in the action.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.