U.S. Capital

Hillshire Brands/Sara Lee Sued by EEOC for Racial Harassment Says Employment Attorney Timothy Coffey

Feb 5, 2016

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) February 5, 2016 – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed a lawsuit (Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-01347) in which it alleged that Hillshire Brands Company/Sara Lee of Chicago violated federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by deliberately overlooking racial slurs and thus subjecting African-American workers to a racially hostile environment.

The statement of claim included reference to racially offensive comments and repugnant graffiti decorating the workplace, as well as allegations that some workers were stricken with cancer due to working in more hazardous environments than their white co-workers where they were exposed to asbestos and black mold. The plant is located in Paris, Texas, and is owned by Hillshire Brands, who also owns other companies such as Jimmy Dean and Tyson.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, approximately 74 African-American workers were deliberately exposed to racist graffiti, symbols, epithets and other degrading drawings on the bathroom walls at the Hillshire Brands/Sara Lee plant. The Commission also found white supervisors used words that included the highly offensive N-word, found bathroom walls covered in references to the KKK and saw grafitti of apes hanging by their necks.

Other allegations in the lawsuit also stated that racial slurs were the norm at the plant. The EEOC conducted an investigation and concluded that the previous plant owners, Sara Lee, had willfully ignored any complaints filed by African-American workers.

Prior to filing a lawsuit, the EEOC does attempt to arrive at a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation.

EEOC’s Dallas Regional Attorney Robert Canino has this to say, among other cautions about letting racism spread in a workplace, about the lawsuit: “Racism must be uprooted by decisive action to cultivate equal opportunity.” Racism/racial discrimination still lives and proliferates in many American workplaces today. The EEOC is also seeking injunctive relief and policy implementation by the company to correct and prevent racial discrimination.

Hillshire Brands reached a settlement to give $4 million to its African-American workers, further agreed to report any future complaints to the EEOC, is amenable to institute “preventative approaches” to deal with workplace harassment and agreed to remove all graffiti.

“If you are experiencing racial harassment in the workplace, contact an experienced employment attorney to find out what your rights are. Racial harassment is illegal, period,” said Coffey.

Learn more at http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com/

351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
Call: 312.627.9700