Windows Manufacturer Inks $3M Discrimination Settlement

May 24, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Seattle window manufacturer has agreed to pay about $3.4 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit, which also charged the company retaliated against an HR whistleblower.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in a news release that it reached the out-of-court settlement with Milgard Manufacturing, Inc. over the alleged racially discriminatory hiring practices at its Denver, Colorado facility. The suit also alleged that Milgard retaliated against human resource assistant, Leigh Ann Ornelas, who complained about the hiring practices.

The settlement money will be used to fund provide payments to African Americans or other black individuals who have applied for work at Milgard since 1997 and were not offered jobs, the EEOC said. The EEOC anticipates that the settlement fund will be ready to accept claims by July 1, 2004.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Milgard has agreed to conduct a review of its policies and procedures to ensure compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws; to provide increased training to its Colorado employees and managers regarding workplace discrimination issues; and to engage in recruitment and outreach programs to increase the proportion of African Americans and blacks in its applicant pool.

Milgard has also agreed that its current operation in Colorado, and any future operations that might be opened in Colorado, will be under continued monitoring by the EEOC for three years.

According to the news release, the lawsuit arose out of events in 1998, when Ornelas was the person responsible for conducting initial interviews of job applicants at Milgard Windows’ plant in Denver. The EEOC and Ornelas maintained that the then plant manager of the Montebello facility told Ornelas not to hire or refer black applicants for certain positions in the plant.

Ornelas and the EEOC also alleged that when Ornelas complained to various managers concerning these instructions, no action was taken against the plant manager and Ornelas was subjected to retaliatory harassment and eventually forced to resign.

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