EEOC Says Employees Subjected to Swastikas, Lynching Drawings, Epithets
DENVER – Albertsons, LLC, a national grocery chain, will pay $8.9 million and furnish other relief to settle three employment discrimination lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged Albertsons with race, color, and national origin discrimination and retaliation at its Aurora, Colo., distribution center. The monetary relief will be distributed among 168 former and current employees.
All three of the EEOC’s cases stemmed from incidents at the Aurora distribution center, which is being closed for unrelated reasons. The first case, EEOC v. Albertsons LLC, Civil Action No. 06-cv-01273, was filed in 2006 and alleged a pattern or practice of workplace harassment and discrimination based on race, color and national origin. According to the lawsuit, minority employees were repeatedly subjected to derogatory comments and graffiti. Blacks were termed “n-----s” and Hispanics termed “s---s,” among other offensive epithets.
The EEOC said the offensive graffiti included racial and ethnic slurs, depictions of lynchings, swastikas, and white supremacist and anti-immigrant statements. The graffiti in a commonly used men’s room was so offensive that several employees would relieve themselves outside the building or go home at lunchtime rather than use the restroom. Some of this graffiti remained for years until the restroom was remodeled in 2005.
The EEOC also charged that minority employees were given harder work assignments and were more frequently and severely disciplined than their white co-workers. According to the EEOC, managers were aware of, and even participated in, the harassment and discrimination.
The second lawsuit, EEOC v. Albertsons LLC, Civil Action No. 08-cv-00640, was filed in 2008 and alleged a pattern or practice of retaliation. The EEOC alleged that dozens of employees complained about the discriminatory treatment and harassment and were subsequently given the harder job assignments, were passed over for promotion and even fired as retaliation.
The third case, EEOC v. Albertsons LLC, Civil Action No. 08-cv-02424, was also filed in 2008 and alleged race discrimination on behalf of a single African American employee at the distribution center who was terminated.
EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said, “Employers simply cannot overlook or tolerate this kind of outrageous discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC certainly won’t. We will aggressively pursue employers who violate the laws we enforce. And we’ll insist on substantial and meaningful relief for the victims before settling these cases.”
Besides the monetary relief, Albertsons agreed to submit to four years of court-ordered monitoring, and to institute an extensive training program to ensure that management is aware of and will comply with equal employment opportunity laws in the future.
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the Phoenix District, which includes the Denver Field Office, said, “These cases presented the EEOC with some of the most egregious examples of race, color and national origin discrimination the agency has seen in years. The graffiti was particularly shocking. Employers need to aggressively criticize such conduct, seek out the culprits and take swift action. Discrimination, harassment and retaliation are no joke. Supervisors and managers need to take complaints seriously. And they need to know that we, as an agency, take retaliation very seriously.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.