MILWAUKEE: Lakeside Plastics, a manufacturing company that produces traffic safety products, screen printing inks, and plastisol formulations located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, violated civil rights law when it subjected a Black employee to a hostile work environment because of his race and then fired him in retaliation for opposing the racial harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the Black employee worked for Lakeside Plastics from June to July 2019 as a production technician. The Black employee was harassed by a white co-worker who subjected him to race-based derogatory comments and slurs including “n—-r” and threatened him with physical harm. The white co-worker also threatened that he could get the Black employee fired. The Black employee opposed the racial harassment by bringing it to the attention of his supervisors and was fired in retaliation for his opposition. Lakeside Plastics terminated the Black employee because of his race when it treated a white employee more favorably for similar conduct.
This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against or terminate employees because of their race. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Lakeside Plastics, Civil Action No. 1:22-cv-01149-WCG) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
“When one worker threatens another with violence and calls him the n-word, that clearly creates a hostile working environment,” said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District. “The working environment is made even worse when management is made aware of the problem but takes no action. Race harassment is a problem that the EEOC is committed to eradicating.”
“An employer cannot fire workers because of their race or because they oppose racial harassment,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “Prosecuting such violations of Title VII is a top priority of the EEOC.”
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.