Federal Agency Charged That Automaker Retaliated Against Female Employees Who Opposed Sex Discrimination at Milwaukee Center
MILWAUKEE – Chrysler Group, LLC will pay $60,000 under a consent decree resolving a retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which was entered by the federal court in Milwaukee today. The EEOC sued Chrysler in December 2009 for unlawfully retaliating against two women after they opposed sex discrimination at Chrysler’s national parts distribution center in Milwaukee. (EEOC v. Chrysler Group, LLC, No. 08-C-1067 (E.D. Wis.).
The events underlying this lawsuit, the EEOC said, began when Chrysler’s second-shift supervisor at the Milwaukee facility removed one of the women from the coveted position of driving a power sweeper and assigned her to gather parts in the “back order release” area. When this woman and a female coworker questioned why a male employee with less seniority was not assigned to the less desirable job of “picking” parts, the EEOC said, Chrysler’s plant manager accused each woman of disrupting the work force and threatened them with discipline, up to and including termination. Further, the EEOC said, Chrysler’s facility manager allegedly delivered these warnings in separate, closed-door meetings with each woman where he pounded on the table, raised his voice, and forced them to compose written statements recanting their allegations.
Retaliation for opposing sex discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On Feb. 17, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied Chrysler’s motion for summary judgment on the EEOC’s retaliation claim. Magistrate Judge William F. Callahan, Jr., while not deciding the case, concluded that the EEOC had alleged enough facts for a reasonable jury possibly to conclude after trial that Chrysler retaliated against the women by engaging in actions that might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from pursuing a charge of discrimination.
Judge Callahan entered the consent decree resolving the lawsuit earlier today, May 25, 2011. The decree provides for monetary relief to the victims and requires Chrysler to report to the EEOC all complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation at the Milwaukee facility for the next two years. Chrysler is also required to train managers and supervisors at its Milwaukee facility on prohibited forms of employment discrimination under Title VII. Finally, Chrysler must adopt a new policy informing employees of their right to oppose unlawful discrimination without fear of retaliation.
“The decree ending this case is a message to employers who act quickly to silence complaints of discrimination: this ‘nip it in the bud’ approach is a losing strategy,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “Any adverse job action that might deter an employee from pursuing his or her rights is unlawful. Title VII protects employees who oppose discrimination even when their complaints do not take the form of an EEOC charge or written grievance. The proper and legal way for management to ‘nip it in the bud’ is to solve the discrimination situation, not punish the complainants.”
In addition to Hendrickson, the EEOC’s litigation team included Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory M. Gochanour and Trial Attorneys Bradley S. Fiorito and Grayson S. Walker.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov .