Thankfully, retaliation lawsuits like this one don’t come around too often. 

The company really fought this in court?

Dion Miller, who is African-American, worked as a cook for Sparx Restaurant in Menomonie, WI.

One day, he complained about an “offensive display” in the restaurant. Though no more information is given on how or where he found the “display,” it included a dollar bill with a noose around George Washington’s neck as well as drawings of a man on horseback and a hooded figure with “KKK” written on his hood.

Three weeks after he complained, Miller was fired.

Miller went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued on his behalf. The company that owned Sparx (which had closed and been re-opened as a Denny’s) still decided to take the case to court.

That may have been a mistake: The court awarded Miller $15,000 in damages for emotional distress. The judge also awarded back pay and interest of more than $41,000. Under the court’s order, the back pay and interest will be increased by 15% to account for increased tax liability to Miller by receiving his wage loss in a lump sum.

It doesn’t end there, either: In addition to the monetary settlement, the judge ordered the company to:

  • stop firing employees in retaliation for complaints about racially offensive postings in their workplace
  • adopt policies that prohibit discrimination
  • adopt an investigative process for bias claims, and
  • provide annual anti-discrimination training to the company’s owner and other managers.

Richard B, Cohen of the Employment Discrimination Report blog said that:

an employer cannot prevent racist or other discriminatory incidents, but s/he can make sure that there are anti-discriminatory and anti-retaliation policies in place, and proper and periodic training for both managers and employees in all manner of anti-discrimination laws. As an EEOC attorney just said … “Employers who punish employees who do complain are following a self-destructive scenario and ought not to be surprised when the EEOC shows up.”

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