Supervisor Repeatedly Exposed Himself to Female Employees, Federal Agency Says
MADISON, WIS. – A major Midwestern lumber supplier, Biewer Wisconsin Sawmill, Inc. (Biewer), violated federal law by allowing female employees to be sexually harassed at its sawmill in Prentice, Wis., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The agency’s administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that a Biewer supervisor created a sexually hostile work environment when he repeatedly exposed his genitals to female employees over a period of years. EEOC alleges that Biewer did not fire the supervisor until the Price County District Attorney began an investigation which led to the supervisor being charged under Wisconsin state law with two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior (Case No. 08-CM-106 in Price County Circuit Court).
“Women have the same right as men to earn a living in an environment free from sexual harassment,” said EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, who supervised the agency’s investigation. “Employers who don’t protect their workers’ rights need to know that the federal government will enforce our national policy against sexual abuse in the workplace.”
The EEOC filed suit after first exhausting its efforts to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Verna J. Weber and a class of similarly-situated female employees, in addition to an order barring future discrimination and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Biewer Wisconsin Sawmill, Inc. (Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-482), was filed in federal district court in Madison and assigned to U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb.
EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John Hendrickson noted, “Despite all of the negative attention focused on sexual harassment over the past 20 years, it continues to be an area which demands the EEOC’s focused law enforcement attention. This appears to be one of those cases which show exactly that – and in extraordinarily graphic terms.”
According to its web site, Biewer is one of several affiliated and closely-held companies engaged in the lumber business under the Biewer name in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois and headquartered in St. Clair, Mich. The companies manufacture and distribute products for a wide variety of building applications under the names “Select Cut,” “Monarch,” “Dricon,” and “Everguard.” The companies have sawmills in Prentice, Wis., and McBain, Mich., and manufacturing and distribution facilities in Seneca, Ill., and Lansing, Mich. They are affiliated with Biewer Logistics, which the web site describes as offering custom transportation and expert shipping management, and with Biewer Industrial Lumber, LLC, which is described as the “business to business” branch of the companies.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
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.