Big Lots to Pay $400,000 for Race Harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Feb. 16 announced the settlement of its race harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Big Lots Inc., the nation's largest broadline closeout retailer. The settlement includes total monetary relief of $400,000 to be paid to least five employees along with a group of unidentified class members. Big Lots also agreed to a two-year consent decree that calls for the implementation of a new policy, training, procedures, and court monitoring to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

EEOC originally filed suit against Big Lots in September 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Big Lots, Inc., CV-08-06355-GW(CTx)). The agency alleged that Big Lots violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it subjected a black maintenance mechanic and other black employees to race harassment and discrimination at its Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., distribution center. Specifically, EEOC alleged that an immediate supervisor and co-workers, all Hispanic, made racially derogatory jokes, comments, slurs, and epithets, including the use of the words "n----r" and "monkey." Despite learning of the harassment, the company took no steps to prevent or correct it, EEOC said.

"Working in a job that they valued highly, the employees in this case rightfully expected to earn a living free of discrimination," said Anna Park, regional attorney of EEOC's Los Angeles District Office. "They should not have had to endure harassment or discrimination based on their race. The EEOC will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure that employees at all workplaces are respected and free from harassment, discrimination and retaliation."

EEOC District Director Olophius Perry added, "The EEOC is pleased that Big Lots voluntarily entered into a settlement that includes injunctive relief designed to ensure that its black employees are not subjected to harassment or discrimination."

In fiscal year 2009, EEOC received 33,579 charges alleging race-based discrimination, accounting for about 36 percent of the agency's private sector caseload. Historically, race-based charges have been one of the most frequent types of filing with EEOC offices nationwide, the agency said.

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