Employee Was Demoted and Then Fired When She Refused to Discriminate Against African-American Employee, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - A Buffalo, Minn., metal services company will pay $45,000 under a consent decree entered here which resolves a lawsuit alleging retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Izza Bending Tube & Wire retaliated against employee Myrna Peltonen when it demoted her and reduced her salary after she refused to discriminate against an African-American employee. The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Izza's manager instructed Peltonen not to hire the black employee, who was working as a temporary employee, to a permanent position, and told her to get rid of him because of his race. The EEOC's lawsuit further alleged that after Peltonen filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, she was laid off and then terminated as retaliation.
Retaliation for opposing employment discrimination or for filing a charge with the EEOC violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Izza Bending Tube & Wire, Inc., Civil Action No. 0:13-cv-02570, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank signed the consent decree resolving the lawsuit on September 18, and notice was provided to counsel today. The decree provides $45,000 in monetary relief to Peltonen, and requires Izza to report to the EEOC all employee complaints of retaliation at its workplace located in Buffalo, Minn. The company must also train its employees on their rights to be free from discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, and train its management personnel on federal law prohibiting retaliation.
"Preserving access to the legal system is one of the EEOC's priorities outlined in its Strategic Enforcement Plan, and the EEOC will vigorously litigate cases where employees have been retaliated against for opposing discrimination or filing an EEOC charge," said John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "The consent decree puts in place training and policies to ensure that Izza managers and employees are aware of the law against retaliation."
EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, who managed the EEOC's administrative investigation of the charge of discrimination underlying the lawsuit, added, "Retaliation is a growing issue in the workplace, and represents the largest number of charges filed with the EEOC last year. Employers cannot demote or fire employees for exercising their civil rights to complain about discrimination."
In addition to Hendrickson, EEOC Associate Regional Attorney Jean P. Kamp in Chicago, and Senior Trial Attorney Tina Burnside in Minneapolis litigated the case on behalf of the government.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.