Recently, the Chicago Meat Authority, a Chicago meat processing plant, made the news, but not in a way that had anything to do with meat processing. The company settled a lawsuit against it for $1.1 million.
The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in February 2018 alleging that the Meat Authority had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on race. The EEOC claimed that African-Americans were discriminated against in the hiring process.
In addition, Black employees were subjected to harassing racial slurs from non-Black coworkers. To make matters worse, the Meat Authority fired a Black employee because of his race and in retaliation for his reporting the racial harassment. After more than three years of litigation, the company settled the lawsuit without having to admit fault.
Terms of the Settlement
In mid-October 2021, the Meat Authority finally settled the lawsuit by way of a consent decree. The following terms were agreed to:
- Payment of $1.1 million to the discrimination victims.
- The company is prohibited from future discrimination.
- The company must hire any of the previously rejected applicants who still want to work for it.
- The company must make a good-faith effort to achieve hiring goals for Black employees.
- The company must implement harassment training and policies.
The director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office stated, “The consent decree will ensure that the federal laws against discrimination and harassment are followed, that all future applicants, regardless of their race, will be given the consideration that they deserve, and that racial harassment will not be tolerated.”
The Chicago Meat Authority was not Required to Admit Fault
The president of the Chicago Meat Authority made it clear that the company was not admitting fault. He declared that it was simply a “business decision to settle the case, without any admission of improper practices, rather than continue with a very costly defense.” He minimized the allegations by asserting the case involved complaints by “ a handful of employees” who had been fired by the company.
This case was not handled by our office, but if you need assistance with similar issues as presented here, or with any other concern you may have about employment discrimination and retaliation in the Chicago area, contact us at Goldman & Ehrlich.