Bakery to Pay $350K to Settle Harassment Suit

March 31, 2010 ( - A Chicago-area baking company will pay $350,000 to settle a national origin harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC charged that Gonnella Baking Co. tolerated harassment of employees of Mexican national origin by a manager at its Aurora, Illinois, facility, and when a number of those employees complained about the harassment, the manager retaliated against them by subjecting them to further verbal harassment, longer hours, and harsher working conditions.      

According to the EEOC announcement, John Rowe, EEOC district director in Chicago, said the EEOC’s investigation revealed that the Gonnella manager routinely made derogatory anti-Mexican comments to several sanitation employees of Mexican national origin. After some of these employees complained about the mis­treatment, the manager required the employees to work longer hours, with a number of shifts exceed­ing 12 hours and on one occasion reaching as much as 19 hours.       

According to the employees, the manager warned them against making further complaints, telling one employee that if she complained to the company’s human resources department, she was “going to pay for it.”      

In addition to requiring Gonnella to pay damages to seven individuals and to pay attorney fees to intervening plaintiffs, the company will also be subject to a four-year consent decree, under which it will be required to report any further complaints of discrimination or retaliation to the EEOC and to provide training about employment discrimination law to its managers and other employees. The decree contains an injunction prohibiting Gonnella from engaging in further discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, or retaliation.