Belle Tire Distributors to Pay $55,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

 Employee Was Unlawfully Harassed by Manager, Then Fired After He Complained, Federal Agency Charged

DETROIT - Belle Tire Distributors, Inc., a tire, wheels and auto service company, has agreed to pay $55,000 and furnish other relief to settle a racial harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the store manager of the Port Huron, Mich., location made derogatory, race-based comments to the only African American employee. The remarks included calling the employee "cricket" and "dumb-dumb" and telling him that "blacks don't get Saturdays off." The comments were sometimes accompanied by demeaning physical contact, such as slapping the employee in the head or shoving him, the EEOC said. After the employee formally complained to human resources about the harassment, he was fired within 48 hours. The manager was given a written warning for "shop talk" and "horseplay."

Such alleged conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 2:18-cv-13795 in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit provides that, in addition to paying $55,000, the company will take meaningful steps toward ensuring a work environment that is free from harassment, including redistribution of its anti-discrimination policy and annual anti-harassment training for certain human resources professionals and managers. The decree also requires the company to report future complaints of race harassment and any measures taken to investigate and remedy such complaints.

"Race harassment is a persistent problem that must be thoroughly addressed whenever anyone notifies the Commission," said EEOC Detroit Office Trial Attorney Miles Uhlar. "We appreciate Belle Tire's willingness to reach an early resolution of this case and its commitment to improving its work environment going forward."

The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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