U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Female Machine Operator Was Abused at North Prairie, Wis., Factory, Federal Agency Charged
MILWAUKEE - Hufcor, Inc., of Janesville, Wis., the world's leading manufacturer of operable and accordion partitions, will pay $120,000 and furnish other relief under a consent decree entered in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to EEOC's suit, Katy Degenhardt, who worked as a machine operator at a Hufcor subsidiary, Total Quality Plastics (TQP), in North Prairie, Wis., was touched inappropriately on a regular basis by her shift coordinator for three years until he was fired in May 2012. Degenhardt repeatedly reported the harassment and the retaliation to which she was subjected to Hufcor and TQP officials, but the plant manager retaliated against her for her complaints by denying her breaks, assigning her difficult work, trying to reduce her wages, denying her advancement opportunities and taking other adverse actions.
Julianne Bowman, director of EEOC's Chicago District office, who supervised the investigation, said that co-workers supported Degenhardt's claim that she was punished where others were not for the same offenses, and that Hufcor and TQP did not take corrective action until Degenhardt hired a lawyer.
In addition to the EEOC's claims on her behalf, Degenhardt, who intervened in EEOC's suit, alleged that Hufcor unlawfully terminated her employment in February 2013 in retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC and Katy Degenhardt v. Hufcor, Inc., d/b/a Total Quality Plastics, No. 2:14-cv-1186), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in September 2014 after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree entered by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman on August 14, 2015, prohibits future discrimination and provides that Hufcor will pay $120,000 to Degenhardt and train its managers and employees regarding an employer's obligations and the rights of employees under Title VII.
"The Supreme Court has held that when an employer learns of sexual harassment, it must take immediate and effective action to stop it," said John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of EEOC's Chicago District Office, which is responsible for litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. "Employers who don't protect their workers should know that the federal government will enforce our national policy against sexual abuse in the workplace."
"Sometimes we need to reinforce through litigation the message that workers should not be fired for reporting job discrimination," Hendrickson continued. "We appreciate Hufcor's willingness to provide relief for Ms. Degenhardt and to prevent any further sex discrimination in its facilities."
According to its website, Hufcor is a privately held U.S.A. corporation and is the world's leading manufacturer of operable and accordion partitions. Its TQP subsidiary closed in November 2013.
The EEOC's litigation efforts were led by Senior Trial Attorney Dennis R. McBride of its Milwaukee Area Office and Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of its Chicago District Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website, www.eeoc.gov.