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Press Release 03-04-2019

Herbruck Poultry Ranch Sued by EEOC for Disability Harassment

Employer Harassed Line Worker and Then Retaliated Against Her for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges

DETROIT- A Saranac, Mich., egg producer violated federal law by subjecting a worker to a hostile work environment because of her disability and by retaliating against her for complaining about the discrim­inatory work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Melinda Crooke was a line worker for Herbruck Poultry Ranch. After her supervisor learned about her disability-related symptoms, she was mocked on a weekly basis by her co-workers and supervisor because of those symptoms. Crooke complained about the mocking nicknames and physical imitation of her symptoms, but nothing was done to stop it. Instead, the harassment by the supervisor worsened, the EEOC said. The supervisor began to follow Crooke to the bathroom to time her breaks. On April 10, 2015, after her supervisor followed her into the bathroom and shouted at her, Crooke again complained to a person in human resources, who did nothing but advise Crooke to return to her shift. Finding the return to the same work environment unbearable, Crooke quit her job.

Creating a hostile work environment because of a disability and retaliating against an employee for complaints about it violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which also prohibits employers from making working conditions so intolerable that employees believe they have to leave. The EEOC seeks to recover monetary compensation for Crooke in the form of back pay and compensatory damages for emo­tional distress, as well as punitive damages. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Herbruck Poultry Ranch, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00165) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"An employer cannot condone a work environment where an employee with an impairment is ridiculed because of it," said EEOC Trial Attorney Dale Price. "It must step in to stop such behavior. The EEOC will vigorously pursue violations of the ADA and seek injunctive relief when employers fail to act promptly and appropriately."

The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District, which oversees Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio. 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.