Offensive Graffiti in Iowa Food Distributor's Men's Room Remained for Weeks, Federal Agency Charged
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - A federal magistrate judge in Sioux City has entered a consent decree resolving a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against one of the nation's largest food distributors for restaurant chains, Meadowbrook Meat Company, Inc.
According to the EEOC's suit, Meadowbrook, doing business as MBM Corporation, failed for months to remove racist graffiti, including the "N-word," a swastika, and references to the Ku Klux Klan, from its Mason City, Iowa warehouse.
The lawsuit claimed that in May 2011, an African-American employee complained to MBM's management that he had seen graffiti reading "N*****s STINK" in a men's restroom. The EEOC alleged that MBM supervisors, including the black employee's supervisor, used that restroom, yet the racist message remained for 30 days after he complained. The EEOC's suit also alleged that, about a week after MBM finally removed the graffiti, a second message appeared, this time stating "KKK I hate N*****s." The EEOC alleged that this second message remained visible for over three months after the employee alerted the EEOC to the situation. MBM denied the allegations.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits race discrimination, including racial harassment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Meadowbrook Meat Co., d/b/a MBM Corp., No. 12cv3069-MWB) in September 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, entered on June 24, 2013, by U.S. Magistrate Judge Leonard T. Strand, provides that MBM will pay $15,000 in compensatory damages to three former employees who saw the graffiti at the warehouse. MBM also agreed to paint the men's restrooms with graffiti-resistant paint, adopt a policy prohibiting racist imagery, create an incentive program to encourage compliance with that policy and conduct surveys to determine whether employees are familiar with its anti-harassment policies. Also, MBM will train its employees, managers and supervisors regarding race discrimination, an employer's obligations, and the rights of employees under Title VII.
"Racial hatred has no place anywhere in America," said John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, which is responsible for EEOC litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. "We are as committed as ever to eradicating race discrimination in the workplace. We appreciate MBM's willingness to provide monetary relief for the black employees affected by the race discrimination and to work with us to prevent race discrimination in its facilities."
Rocky Mount, N.C.-based MBM, purchased in 2012 by McLane Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has over 3,300 employees and owns 38 distribution centers across the country, distributing food products to customers in nearly all 50 states and internationally.
The EEOC's litigation efforts were led by trial attorneys Camille A. Monahan and César J. del Peral from its Milwaukee Area Office and were supervised by Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.