Last month, Minnesota mattress manufacturer Sealy reportedly settled a case with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involving allegations of racial harassment. According to the agency, some of the company’s employees had been engaging in seriously, racially-hostile behaviors, which included racial jokes and slurs and racially motivated actions that easily could have been perceived as threatening.
The behavior had reportedly been going on at the company’s St. Paul facility. Sealy insists that it took quick action to address the behavior, terminating several supervisory employees and providing remedial workforce training afterward. Nevertheless, Sealy chose to settle the case after an EEOC investigation found that there was reasonable cause to believe the company had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The settlement requires Sealy to pay $175,000, to be split among the victims, and to take certain remedial measures to more effectively address workplace harassment.
Racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace is a serious issue, and employees who have been victimized on the job need to understand their options for addressing the situation. First of all, employees should all be aware of the internal process their employer has established to handle discrimination and harassment complaints, and should make use of it when appropriate.
Secondly, when an employer fails to take sufficient action to address discrimination and harassment, it is important for employees to understand the process for reporting the matter to state and federal authorities. At the federal level, the EEOC is responsible for handling discrimination and harassment complaints, while the Minnesota Department of Human Rights handles complaints in this state. We’ll say more about this topic in an upcoming post.