Company Harassed American Indian Employee and Forced Her Out of Job, Federal Agency Charged
RHINELANDER, Wis. – A Rhinelander, Wis.-based staffing firm, Wisconsin Staffing Services, Inc., doing business as Nicolet Staffing, will pay $20,000 under a consent decree entered yesterday, which ends a race discrimination and constructive discharge lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC’s suit, the president of the company allegedly engaged in repeated, acts of racial harassment toward a Native American employee, Carolyn Red Bear, allegedly including derogatory comments about Red Bear’s “ethnic” appearance, suggestions that she seek alternative employment in personal home care as more consistent with the skills of Native American people, and statements that she did not “fit in” with the white community in Ladysmith, Wis. Despite complaints, the EEOC contended, the company allowed a non-Native American co-worker to refer to herself at work using the fictitious name “Pink Feather,” allegedly to mock Red Bear.
Ultimately, according to the EEOC, Wisconsin Staffing Services forced Red Bear out of her job when she refused to comply with a directive from the company president to cut her hair, change her last name, and to stop “rubbing in” her heritage.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful to harass employees based on race, including racial harassment. The EEOC filed suit ( EEOC v. Wisconsin Staffing Services, Inc.. d/b/a Nicolet Staffing, Inc., Case No. 3:10-cv-543) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
In addition to the $20,000 in monetary relief to Red Bear, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Wisconsin Staffing Services from engaging in discrimination or harassment based on race or retaliation in violation of Title VII. The consent decree also mandates that Wisconsin Staffing will implement and distribute policies prohibiting discrimination and retaliation and set up procedures for receiving and investigating complaints. The company must also provide two hours of training on race discrimination laws to managers and employees and an additional hour of training to any manager designated to investigate discrimination complaints. The company is also required to report to the EEOC about the company’s response to any complaints of alleged discrimination and post a remedial notice.
"No employee can be required to endure harassment or mocking of her ethnic heritage as a price of holding on to her job,” said John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “That’s contrary to our national tradition and to our law as enacted by Congress. It’s that law which undergirds this consent decree and which will assure a positive change at the defendant in this case.”
The case was litigated by Trial Attorney Camille Monahan of the EEOC’s Milwaukee Area Office. The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, 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 enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.