MILWAUKEE – A major Midwestern woodworking company, Richardson Industries, Inc. of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., violated federal law by firing a female employee after receiving a report that one of its supervisors had sexually harassed her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commis¬sion (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The agency’s administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that the company, doing business as Richco Structures, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it fired Morgan Rae Brocker in retaliation after supervisors reported to management that another Richco supervisor had sexually harassed Brocker by at a company-sponsored Christmas party in December 2005.
“Whether a victim of harassment complains or someone complains for her, women have the right to be free from harassment,” said EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, who supervised the agency’s investiga¬tion. “They also have the right not to be fired because of such a complaint, which is really just a perfectly reasonable request that they be allowed to do their work without having to run a gauntlet of abuse and retaliation.”
The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Brocker, in addition to an order barring future discrimination and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Richardson Industries, Inc., d/b/a Richco Structures (Civil Action No. 2:10-C-0505), was filed in federal district court in Milwaukee and assigned to U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert.
“Retaliation complaints have been the fastest-increasing type of complaint filed with the EEOC over the past 10 years,” said John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office which is responsible for EEOC litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. “By now, we hoped that employers would have gotten the message not to fire workers who are victims of sexual harassment and other employment discrimination. Sometimes we need to reinforce that message through litigation.”
Richardson Industries, Inc., is a privately held corporation with several different divisions devoted to the various aspects of furniture and woodworking. The company’s website states that its Richardson Building Products division – comprised of Richardson Lumber Company and Richco Structures – has 400 employees. It also states that “Richco Structures, with locations in Sheboygan Falls, Haven, and De Pere, Wis., is one of the Midwest’s largest manufacturers of custom fabricated wood roof trusses, floor trusses, and wall components, as well as a distributor of engineered wood products for the construction industry.”
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