Agency Says Bread Manufacturer Failed to Stop Persistent, Disparaging Racial Comments
CHICAGO - Gonnella Baking Co. violated federal civil rights laws by failing to stop a pattern of disparaging comments about black employees at the company's Aurora, Ill., baking facility, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The defendant, a wholesale manufacturer of bread products, has three facilities in the Chicago area and one in Pennsylvania, according to its website.
According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, the EEOC's pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that the company received repeated complaints about harassment directed at black employees, but did little or nothing in response. The harassment included frequent and derogatory comments, such as "you people are lazy," persistent references to black employees as "you people" or "your people," and "I better watch my wallet around you."
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination (including harassment) on the basis of race. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Gonnella Baking Co., Civil Action No. 15 cv 4892, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. The government's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Bradley Fiorito and Justin Mulaire and supervised by EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour.
"Employers who know about discriminatory harassment of their employees are responsible for stopping it," said John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "Racial comments and stereotypes have no place in a modern workplace, and the EEOC will hold employers accountable for that misconduct."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.