Employment Law, Harassment

Sealy Ignored Noose, KKK Hood at Worksite, Feds Say

Sealy of Minnesota will pay $175,000 to resolve claims that it ignored severe racial harassment at a manufacturing plant in St. Paul, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).


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After conducting an investigation, the EEOC said it determined that the employer, despite receiving complaints about the harassment, ignored a noose, a Ku Klux Klan hood, and racist epithets and jokes at the plant.

Sealy’s inaction violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which harassment is a form of discrimination. According to the EEOC, an employer can be liable for an employees’ action if it knew, or should have known, about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

“Sealy now understands that it is not enough for an employer to have an anti-harassment policy,” said Julie Schmid, an acting area director for the commission. “An employer must have an effective policy, respond to allegations promptly, and take immediate and appropriate corrective action to end the discrimination,” she said in a press release announcing the settlement.

In addition to paying the monetary settlement to the harassment victims, Sealy also agreed to provide antidiscrimination training to all employees and additional training on harassment and retaliation to its supervisors, managers, and owners. The company will revise and disseminate its antiharassment policy to all employees and offer an anonymous hotline for employees to report discrimination complaints, according to the EEOC.

Sealy also agreed to revise the performance evaluations of all supervisors to require compliance with EEO laws as part of their position. That stipulation isn’t new, but it’s becoming a more common provision in the commission’s agreements, Schmid told BLR® in a statement. She noted that it was a recommendation that came out of the commission’s 2016 task force on harassment.

In a report published by the task force’s cochairs Chai Feldbum and Victoria Lipnic, the agency recommended that employers “hold mid-level managers and front-line supervisors accountable for preventing and/or responding to workplace harassment, including through the use of metrics and performance reviews.”

Kate TornoneKate McGovern Tornone is an editor at BLR. She has almost 10 years’ experience covering a variety of employment law topics and currently writes for HR Daily Advisor and HR.BLR.com. Before coming to BLR, she served as editor of Thompson Information Services’ ADA and FLSA publications, co-authored the Guide to the ADA Amendments Act, and published several special reports. She graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a B.A. in media studies.