Janesville, Wis.-based Hufcor Inc., which manufactures operable and accordion partitions, will pay $120,000 and furnish other relief under a consent decree entered in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.
According to EEOC’s suit, Katy Degenhardt, who worked as a machine operator at a Hufcor subsidiary, Total Quality Plastics (TQP), in North Prairie, Wis., was touched inappropriately on a regular basis by her shift coordinator for three years until he was fired in May 2012.
Degenhardt repeatedly reported the harassment and the retaliation to which she was subjected to Hufcor and TQP officials, but the plant manager retaliated against her for her complaints by denying her breaks, assigning her difficult work, trying to reduce her wages, denying her advancement opportunities and taking other adverse actions, the EEOC said.
Julianne Bowman, director of EEOC’s Chicago District office, who supervised the investigation, said that co-workers supported Degenhardt’s claim that she was punished where others were not for the same offenses, and that Hufcor and TQP did not take corrective action until Degenhardt hired a lawyer.
In addition to the EEOC’s claims on her behalf, Degenhardt, who intervened in EEOC’s suit, alleged that Hufcor unlawfully terminated her employment in February 2013 in retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC and Katy Degenhardt v. Hufcor, Inc., d/b/a Total Quality Plastics, No. 2:14-cv-1186) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in September 2014 after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree entered by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman on Aug. 14, 2015, prohibits future discrimination and provides that Hufcor will pay $120,000 to Degenhardt and train its managers and employees regarding an employer’s obligations and the rights of employees under the law.
“The Supreme Court has held that when an employer learns of sexual harassment, it must take immediate and effective action to stop it,” said John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which is responsible for litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. “Employers who don’t protect their workers should know that the federal government will enforce our national policy against sexual abuse in the workplace.”
According to its website, Hufcor is a privately held U.S.A. corporation and is the world’s leading manufacturer of operable and accordion partitions. Its TQP subsidiary closed in November 2013.
The EEOC’s litigation efforts were led by Senior Trial Attorney Dennis R. McBride of its Milwaukee Area Office and Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of its Chicago District Office.
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