CHICAGO - Rizza Cadillac, Inc. of Tinley Park, Ill., a suburb south of Chicago, violated federal law by encouraging a work environment which was hostile and offensive to Muslim and Arab sales staff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Rizza Cadillac managers fostered the discriminatory work environment using offensive slurs, such as "terrorist," "sand n----r," and "Hezbollah," and making mocking and insulting references to the Qur'an and the manner in which Muslims pray.
John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, managed the administrative investigation which preceded EEOC's lawsuit.
"Our investigation revealed that Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures to stop and prevent this abusive misconduct, as they were required to do by federal law," said Rowe. "Employees should be judged by their performance, not their religion or ethnicity."
Harassment based on national origin or religion violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 1:13-cv-06696) this morning 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 assigned to District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. and Magistrate Judge Mary M. Rowland. It seeks monetary relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages, an order requiring the dealership to implement measures to prevent a recurrence of harassment, and a permanent injunction against future discrimination.
"Employers may not allow managers to repeatedly make offensive slurs and insults about an employee's religion or national origin," said John C. Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "Comments implying that all Muslims are terrorists cannot be excused or minimized by calling it mere 'banter' about a minority ethnicity or religion. The EEOC stands ready to protect Muslim and Arab workers when they are subjected to such harassment."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The case will be litigated by attorneys in the Chicago District Area Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.