Delaware-based chicken processor Mountaire Farms Inc. will pay $40,000 to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on August 3. The EEOC had charged in its lawsuit that Mountaire Farms violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it gave an employee a negative performance evaluation and then fired her in retaliation for her complaints about racial discrimination.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Mountaire Farms Inc. d/b/a Mountaire Farms of North Carolina Corporation, Civil Action No. 7:09-CV-00147), Mountaire Farms gave Carrie Nelson, an employee at its Lumber Bridge, N.C., facility, an unjustifiably negative performance evaluation in retaliation for two complaints that she had made regarding race discrimination. Nelson, who is African-American, had complained to Mountaire Farms’ management that her direct supervisor, who is white, had used racially offensive language about her and in her presence. Thereafter, Mountaire Farms allowed the supervisor to give Nelson a performance evaluation, which the EEOC claimed was unjustifiably negative. After Nelson complained that the negative performance evaluation was in retaliation for her previous complaints about race discrimination, she was terminated.
In addition to paying monetary relief to Nelson, the settlement requires Mountaire Farms to take other actions, including providing annual training on race discrimination and unlawful retaliation to its managers and supervisors at its Lumber Bridge facility. In addition, Mountaire Farms must post at its Lumber Bridge facility a notice concerning employees’ rights under federal anti-discrimination laws and provide periodic reports to the EEOC on actions taken toward employees as a result of complaints about discrimination.
“This case serves as a reminder to employers that they must take appropriate action in response to complaints about discrimination,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. “Employees must be free to complain about practices which they believe violate employment discrimination laws without fear of retribution. The EEOC will vigorously prosecute cases where unlawful retaliation occurs.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its Web site at www.eeoc.gov.