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Press Release 06-02-2022

Giertsen to Pay $140,000 to Settle EEOC Race Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

Construction and Renovation Company Subjected Black Employees to Racial Slurs and Employee Was Fired After Complaining About the Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

MILWAUKEE – A Waukesha, Wisconsin construction and commercial real estate renovation company will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit for racial harassment and retaliation brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC said Giertsen Company of Wisconsin, doing business as Giertsen Restoration, violated federal law by creating a hostile work environment for African American employees, including the use of racial slurs and racial comments in the workplace, and wrongfully engaged in retaliation by firing an employee who complained about the racist treatment.

According to the EEOC, Black employees were repeatedly subjected to racial slurs and comments, which managers witnessed and took part in. Although employees complained about the hostile work environ­ment, the company did not address the harassment. Instead, Giertsen assigned one of the employees who complained to more physically demanding work and then fired him as retaliation, the EEOC said.

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 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, EEOC v. Giertsen Company of Wisconsin, Civil Action No. 21-cv-1130, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to obtaining $140,000 in monetary relief for the aggrieved individuals, the settlement provides equitable relief for Giertsen employees, including training and appointment of an equal employment opportunity officer, who will be responsible for handling any future discrimination complaints at the company.

“Employers cannot allow their employees to be subjected to racial slurs and comments,” said Wendy Martin, area director of the EEOC’s Milwaukee Area Office. “Such conduct must not be tolerated in the workplace.”

EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman reminded companies, “It is unlawful for a company to knowingly ignore race-based harassment. The EEOC will continue to hold employers accountable when they fail to meet their obligations.”

Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, added, “The law requires employers to take complaints of race harassment seriously and act swiftly to address such conduct in the workplace. We acknowledge Giertsen’s cooperation in the early resolution of this lawsuit and look forward to working with the company to ensure the workplace is free of harassment in the future.”

The EEOC’s Milwaukee Area Office is part of the Chicago District, which is responsible for processing charges of discrimin­ation, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota. The Chicago District has Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

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.