$4 million settlement awarded by Sara Lee Corporation for Racial Discrimination

On December 22, 2015, the Federal Equal Employment agency announced that Hillshire Brands Company (formerly known as the Sara Lee Corporation) will pay $4 million to a group of 74 African-American former employees as well as other significant relief to settle race discrimination and a hostile work environment at a former bakery in Paris. See Stanley Beaty et al. v. The Hillshire Brands Company et al., Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-58-JRG-RSP, Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-1347-JRG-RSP (Dec. 18, 2015).[1]

 

The settlement was described as the largest racial discrimination settlement in the history of EEOC in Dallas.

 

EEOC claimed that there was a violation of civil rights (Title VII) as the African-American employees were subjected to asbestos, mold racial graffiti on the walls of the bathrooms and locker rooms and were also steered into hazardous areas of the plant, exposing them to toxic materials.

 

In addition to this, the former bakery employees alleged that they were berated with racial slurs by supervisors and other white co-workers during their working hours and their complaints were not addressed by management.

 

EEOC filed a suit against Hillshire Brands Company in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, after its first attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

 

“EEOC strongly believes it is critically important for companies to set policies and provide effective avenues for complaints to address racial harassment in the workplace," said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Suzanne Anderson.

 

After a two year consent decree settling, the workers were finally provided with injunctions which included that implementation of various preventative approaches by Hillshire Brands regarding discrimination or harassment against any employee on the basis of race as well as submission of periodical reports regarding incidents or investigations to EEOC. Besides that, Hillshire Brands also agreed to engage in remedial measures such as anti-discrimination training and implementation of procedures to prevent and promptly address graffiti issues.



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