An Illinois meat processing plant, the Chicago Meat Authority Inc. (“CMA”), and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently agreed to settle a three-year-old lawsuit filed in an Illinois federal court. The agency claimed that CMA had a recurring practice where it bypassed Black job applicants for almost a decade and subjected Black employees to racial slurs and harassment.

In U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Chicago Meat Authority, Inc., 1:18-cv-01357, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Angelo Turner and several other employees alleged that CMA engaged in discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC issued letters to CMA in July 2017 stating that its investigation yielded sufficient reason to believe that CMA had subjected its African American employees to racial harassment over an extended period.

CMA agreed to pay over $1.1 million into a settlement fund and impose policy changes. Consent decrees are settlements between parties where neither party admits liability. In the three-year consent decree, Chicago Meat Authority continues to deny the discrimination allegations.

The $1.1 million settlement fund constitutes compensatory damages and back wages for black job applicants who applied for jobs at CMA since January 2012 but were not hired and for four CMA workers who alleged racial harassment.

The settlement also unilaterally prohibits race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and it requires the company to prioritize hiring black applicants who weren’t hired in the past but still want employment at CMA. CMA must also adhere as closely as possible to ensuring that half of its new hires are African American.

Additionally, CMA must create anti-discrimination training for its employees and management. It must also implement a new process for internally investigating discrimination claims. The consent decree also directs that CMA sets up a hotline so employees and prospective job applicants may report race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation confidentially.

Finally, the settlement requires CMA to expunge any records showing it fired ex-employee Angelo Turner. The EEOC claimed its investigation led it to believe that CMA fired Turner based on his race and in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge with the agency.

In a press release, CMA president Jordan Dorfman characterized the deal as a “business decision to settle the case, without any admission of improper practices.” “Though it may seem that settling this case was somehow an admission of fault, nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement added. “This does not mean that as an employer we haven’t learned from this experience or had cause to evaluate what we can do better.”

EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement that “this resolution is a reminder of the urgency of the EEOC’s work to combat systemic racial discrimination and harassment. I am pleased that Chicago Meat Authority is working to address past wrongs and prevent future discrimination.”

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