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Press Release 01-10-2017

Gonnella Baking Co. to Pay $30,000 to Settle EEOC Race Harassment Lawsuit

Bread Manufacturer Failed to Stop Co-Workers' Racial Taunts, Agency Charged

CHICAGO -- Gonnella Baking Co. of Chicago will pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charging race harassment at the company's Aurora, Ill., facility, EEOC announced today.

EEOC's lawsuit charged that Gonnella violated federal law by failing to respond adequately to a black employee's complaints that he endured a pervasive pattern of disparaging racial comments made by his co-workers. Examples of the harassing conduct included persistent references to black employees as "you people," as well as offensive statements such as, "Black people are lazy," and "I better watch my wallet around you."

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law which prohibits workplace discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race.

"Employers are responsible for putting an end to co-worker harassment when they become aware of it," explained Gregory Gochanour, EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "That includes the responsibility to take seriously every allegation of race harassment, and then to investigate thoroughly and take appropriate actions to eliminate the misconduct."

EEOC's Chicago District director, Julianne Bowman, added, "Racial harassment is not limited to explicit racial slurs, and can include any offensive conduct directed toward an employee because of his race. Requiring an employee to endure persistent references to offensive racial stereotypes or jokes in the workplace is a violation of the law."

EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Gonnella Baking Co., Civil Action No. 15-cv-4892, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and was assigned to Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman and Magistrate Judge Susan Cox. The government's litigation effort was led by Trial Attorneys Brad Fiorito and Justin Mulaire and supervised by EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour.

Judge Cox entered a consent decree resolving the lawsuit on January 9, 2017. The decree provides $30,000 in relief to the employee who brought the discrimination charge that was the basis for EEOC's lawsuit. As part of the decree, Gonnella must also provide training to its employees on civility in the workplace and must institute a policy holding managers and supervisors responsible for preventing and stopping harassment in the workplace.

EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, 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.

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.