Grocery Wholesaler Allegedly Tolerated Harassment on Ashland Avenue Docks
CHICAGO – A federal district judge has entered a $735,000 consent decree resolving a race harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The case, EEOC v. Battaglia Distributing Corp., Inc., No.13-cv-5789, had been pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago.
The EEOC had charged that Battaglia, a grocery wholesaler and manufacturer, tolerated a workplace that was racially hostile to its African-American dock workers. The company is located on South Ashland Avenue in Chicago.
Based upon the findings of an EEOC administrative investigation managed by Chicago Acting District Director Julie Bowman, the lawsuit alleged that since at least 2007, black employees had been harassed due to their race, including being subjected to racial slurs, such as the “N-word,” by co-workers and managers. The suit also alleged that management failed to take action against the harassment despite complaints from employees.
“This case was resolved before the parties had conducted any depositions or incurred any significant costs of discovery,” noted EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson. “We expect that the training and other injunctive relief called for in the decree will make Battaglia a stronger employer going forward. Resolutions of this nature are positive for both the employer and the employees.”
EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said, “No employee should have to endure racial harassment in order to earn a living. I am pleased that we were able to resolve this case and hope that it can serve as an example to other employers.”
Under the terms of the decree which was entered Nov. 10, 2014, Battaglia will pay $735,000 to a group of current and former African-American employees. Among other relief provided under the decree, Battaglia will also have to provide its managers with training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination on the job, and report regularly to the EEOC on any complaints it has received, as well as provide other data to demonstrate that it has not retaliated against any of the participants in the litigation.
Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour and Trial Attorneys Ethan Cohen and Richard Mrizek led EEOC’s litigation efforts.
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.