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Press Release 10-23-2019

Breakthru Beverage Illinois to Pay $950,000 to Settle EEOC Class Employment Discrimination Investigation

 Federal Agency and Beverage Distributor Agree to Resolve Dispute  Concerning Alleged Discrimination

CHICAGO - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has reached a settlement in which Breakthru Beverage Illinois, LLC (BBI), a distributor of alcoholic bever­ages, agreed to pay $950,000 to resolve an investigation conducted by the EEOC.

The EEOC investigation found reasonable cause to believe that BBI discriminated against Illinois sales employees by offering them account and territory assignments that, when accepted, resulted in national origin or race discrimination, which violates Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964. Although BBI denies that it engaged in any discriminatory or unlawful conduct, the company agreed to resolve the matter with the EEOC rather than pursue the matter through litigation.

The settlement provides monetary relief to the class identified by the EEOC and ensures the company will take proactive measures to prevent such discrimination from occurring in the future. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, BBI will:

  • conduct anti-discrimination training for its Illinois sales force;
  • put in place systems to further encourage diverse applicants for open positions;
  • revise its anti-discrimination policy to expressly reference that it prohibits segregating or making assignments based on race and/or national origin and distribute the revised policy to its Illinois sales force; and
  • hire a monitor to track the demographics of employees applying for and receiving offers for specified Illinois sales positions.

BBI will also provide periodic reporting to the EEOC on the demographics of its Illinois sales force for the next two years and post an internal notification to its Illinois employees of this resolution.

"Even when pay and benefits are the same, a divided workforce can lead to decreased employee morale and reduced promotional opportunities for minority applicants," said EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman. "We are pleased that BBI has agreed to monitor the demographics of its Illinois sales force to ensure all employees continue to have equal opportunities to service the accounts and work in the territories of their choice, based on their skills and abilities and not their race or national origin."

Erick Sytsma, BBI's vice president, human resources, Midwest region, said, "We are proud of our diversity and our record of providing equal employment opportunities to all of our employees and applicants, irrespective of their demographics. In this instance, rather than litigating, we were able resolve our differences with the EEOC in a manner that is entirely consistent with our inclusive philosophies and our commitment to equal employment opportunities to all individuals."

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.