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Press Release 09-29-2021

EEOC Sues Giertsen for Racial Harassmnent and Retaliation

Black Employees Working for Restoration Company Subjected to Racial Slurs and Comments, Employee Fired After Complaining About the Harassment, Federal Agency Charges.

CHICAGO. – Giertsen Company of Wisconsin, a company that provides restoration services for residential and commercial clients to repair fire, water, or wind damage, violated federal law by creating a hostile work environment consisting of racial slurs and racial comments toward its black employees, and wrongfully engaged in retaliation by firing an employee who complained about the racist treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.  

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in the workplace due to race and retaliation against an employee for complaining about the discrimination.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Giertsen Company of Wisconsin, Civil Action No. 21-cv-1130) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.  

According to the EEOC, black employees were repeatedly subjected to racial slurs and comments, and other offensive conduct while working out of Giertsen’s Waukesha, Wisconsin location.  Although employees complained about the harassment, managers witnessed and participated in the racist conduct and the company took no action to stop it. Instead, after one of the employees complained, Giertsen assigned him physically demanding and dirty work below his job title and then fired him.

In addition to Waukesha, Giertsen has locations in the Chicago and Minneapolis areas.  

Julianne Bowman, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which oversaw the investigation said, “Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal and unacceptable for a company to allow its black employees to be subjected to continued racial slurs and comments. The Commission will continue to vigorously investigate and enforce the law to protect employees from such racist conduct.”

“Companies have an obligation to stop racial harassment in the workplace.  Employers must act and must act promptly when it becomes aware of harassment,” said Gregory Gochanour, EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago.  “That is the law, and the EEOC will hold employers accountable if they don’t live up to that responsibility.”

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