On April 1, 2012 we reported on a new EEOC retaliation lawsuit and said that “If you thought that ‘code words and dog whistles’ (blog of March 20, 2012) were the only remnants of employment discrimination 50 years after Title VII, listen to this.”
In Wisconsin, an African-American restaurant employee was fired soon after he reported blatantly racist drawings posted at his work site. The images included a dollar bill with a noose drawn around the neck of a blackened George Washington, drawn swastikas on the bill, along with a man drawn in a KKK hood.
We commented that “the suit was just filed so we do not know all sides to this story,” but said that “It is not often easy for management to control the baser discriminatory impulses of employees at work, but it is easier to train managers as to how to avoid retaliatory behavior.”
The EEOC has just announced that the federal court has directed that, in addition to a jury award (that found malice or reckless disregard of the employee’s rights in the firing), the restaurant is liable for back pay and interest. All in all that totals $56,000.
As we said two years ago, an employer cannot prevent racist or other discriminatory incidents, but s/he can make sure that there are anti-discriminatory and anti-retaliation policies in place, and proper and periodic training for both managers and employees in all manner of anti-discrimination laws. As an EEOC attorney just said in the instant case, “Employers who punish employees who do complain are following a self-destructive scenario and ought not to be surprised when the EEOC shows up.”