EEOC Settles National Origin and Race Bias Class Suit on Eve of Trial
CHICAGO – Ceisel Masonry will pay half a million dollars to settle a race and national origin discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC’s suit charged that the north suburban construction company violated federal anti-discrimination laws by subjecting its Hispanic workers to harassment based upon their race and national origin.
The EEOC brought its suit on behalf of a class of 10 Hispanic workers, charging that Ceisel’s foremen and former superintendent would refer to the company’s Latino employees with derogatory terms such as “f---ing Mexicans,” “pork chop,” “Julio,” “spics,” “chico” and “wetback.” In addition, the EEOC and the former employees alleged that Hispanic workers were routinely exposed to racist graffiti, which the company never addressed. The case was scheduled for a two-week jury trial to start on May 4, 2009.
“No employee should have to trade his or her dignity for the right to work, and no employer should permit this type of verbal abuse of employees,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “We take allegations of racial or ethnic harassment very seriously and will pursue these cases vigorously.”
Race and national origin discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after an administrative investigation managed by Chicago District Director John Rowe found reasonable cause to believe federal law had been violated, and after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC suit was filed April 13, 2006, and captioned EEOC v. Ceisel Masonry, No. 06 C 2075. The EEOC’s suit was joined by a companion suit filed by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law on behalf of three of the discrimination victims, captioned Ramirez, et al v. Ceisel Masonry, No. 06 C 2084. Both cases were filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago.
The consent decree settling the suit, signed by Judge Harry D. Leinenweber today, provides that the defendants will pay $500,000 to resolve this matter. The three-year decree enjoins the company from future discrimination on the basis of race or national origin and from any retaliation. It mandates that the company will provide all of its employees with training on how to prevent discrimination, as well as revise its policies on harassment and how to conduct harassment investigations. The decree also requires the company to hold its supervisors accountable if they do not comply with the company’s new anti-harassment and investigation policies.
“This settlement is important vindication for those Hispanic employees who suffered harassment by their supervisors,” said Richard J. Mrizek, the EEOC trial attorney who led the government’s litigation of this case with EEOC Trial Attorney Laurie Elkin. “The consent decree entered in this case will ensure that the company prevents harassment from taking place on its job sites.”
John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the Chicago District Office, which oversees EEOC litigation in a six-state region, said, “This case is a reminder that the federal laws against discriminatory harassment on the job have broad, general application. They apply not only to race and sexual harassment but also to harassment on the basis of national origin. Employers must act decisively against harassment, especially when it comes from supervisors or foremen who have great power over workers, or pay the consequences.”
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.