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Press Release 08-16-2011

EEOC Sues Aurora Health Care For Race Discrimination And Retaliation

Director of Spiritual Care Terminated Black Female Employee While Giving Progressive Discipline to White Males, Federal Agency Says

MILWAUKEE -  Aurora Health Care, a not for profit health care provider operating facilities  in eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, violated the law when it failed to  meaningfully investigate an employee's claims of harassment and race  discrimination, retaliated against the employee for using the company's  internal complaint system, and ultimately fired the employee after she filed a  charge of discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the allegations of EEOC's  lawsuit, LaRhonda Tatum, an African-American employee in Aurora's  Sinai Medical Center's  Spiritual Care Department, repeatedly complained to the human resources department  about her treatment at the hands of her white male supervisor, Edwin Foster,  the Director of Spiritual Care. The EEOC  charges that Aurora  failed to investigate Tatum's numerous internal complaints, and retaliated  against her for filing internal complaints and a charge with the EEOC. Tatum was ultimately terminated without any  progressive disciplinary steps as she attempted to mediate the charge of  discrimination.

John Rowe, director of the federal  agency's Chicago District, said that the EEOC's pre-suit administrative  investigation revealed that Tatum was allegedly terminated for disrespectful  behavior and failure to follow instructions. However, Rowe said, "Tatum had no  prior discipline of any kind, while white male employees who allegedly engaged  in similar or worse behavior were given formal discipline and sent to classes--at the employer's expense--to  improve their workplace behavior. That looks like race discrimination and  retaliation to us."

  Such  alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC attempted  to reach a voluntary settlement before filing suit in U.S. District Court for  the Eastern District of Wisconsin (EEOC  v. Aurora Health Care, E.D. Wis. No. 2:11-cv-007700-AEG). The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief to prevent  future discrimination, as well as back pay, and compensatory and punitive  damages.

"This  situation is particularly disturbing because the victim filed several internal  complaints, yet the hospital failed to take action," said John C. Hendrickson,  regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District. "As we allege in our  complaint, Aurora  then compounded the problem by retaliating against her for filing a charge with  EEOC—that's guaranteed to make the situation worse for everyone, especially the  employer." Retaliation charges are  currently the most numerous category of charges being filed with EEOC.

Camille Monahan, Trial Attorney in the EEOC's Milwaukee Area Office, will  lead the agency's litigation effort. The  EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of  discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency  litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois,  Minnesota, Illinois,  Iowa, 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 web site at