The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
9-3-09

SARA LEE CORPORATION SUED FOR RETALIATION

EEOC Says Black Employee Fired For Filing a Grievance and Complaining About Management Favoritism of Hispanics

HOUSTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it has sued Sara Lee Corporation, doing business as Sara Lee Foodservice, for suspending and firing an employee who complained that African American workers were treated less favorably than their Hispanic co-workers based on race.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 4:09-cv-02845) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, charged that a shift supervisor suspended Donna Kinmon, an African American worker, after she complained that the supervisor was harassing her. She had previously complained to human resources officials that the supervisor treated Hispanic employees more favorably than blacks. A few weeks later she filed a grievance against him accusing him of harassment. According to the EEOC’s suit, when the supervisor received a copy of the grievance, he became angry and said that he was going to “write her ass up” for having filed the complaint against him. The following day, Kinmon was written up and suspended from her job. Seven days later, despite having been apprised of the supervisor’s retaliatory action, upper management terminated her.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to treat an employee less favorably based on race and to retaliate against someone who complains about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination and retaliation, as well as back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

“When an employer blatantly ignores its legal responsibilities and allows a manager to openly discriminate and retaliate, the EEOC will challenge the unlawful conduct,” said R.J. Ruff, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office. “Even if an alleged discriminatory action is found to lack merit, the EEOC will still hold employers accountable for any retaliation related to it.”

EEOC Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher added, “The EEOC will not allow employees to be victimized for asserting their legal rights. We will enforce the retaliation provisions of anti-discrimination laws vigorously to make sure that employees are not dissuaded from opposing harassment and discrimination.”

Sara Lee Foodservice is a supplier of coffee, tea, meat and baked goods that employs approximately 200 employees at its Houston facility. The company is a branch of the global manufacturer of food products, Sara Lee Corporation.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. Additional information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at http://www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on September 3, 2009.

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