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Beverage distributor settles EEOC discrimination probe

Discrimination ruling

A beverage distribution company has agreed to pay $950,000 to resolve a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation as to whether it discriminated against its Illinois sales employees.

The EEOC said Wednesday its investigation found “reasonable cause” to believe that Cicero, Illinois-based Breakthru Beverage Illinois LLC, an alcoholic beverage distributor, discriminated against its Illinois sales employees by offering them account and territory assignments that, when accepted, resulted in national origin or race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It said although BBI denied it engaged in any discrimination or unlawful conduct, it agreed to resolve the matter rather than pursue it through litigation.

In addition to monetary relief, the settlement’s terms includes BBI’s agreement to conduct anti-discrimination training for its Illinois sales force and to put in place systems to further encourage diverse applicants for open positions, among other provisions.

EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman said in a statement, “Even when pay and benefits are the same, a divided workforce can lead to decreased employee morale and reduced promotional opportunities for minority applicants.

 “We are pleased that BBI has agreed to monitor the demographics of its Illinois sales force to ensure all employees continue to have equal opportunities to service the accounts and work in the territories of their choice, based on their skills and abilities and not their race or national origin.”

Erick Sytsma, BBI’s vice president, human resources, Midwest region, said in the statement, “We are proud of our diversity and our record of providing equal employment opportunities to all of our employees and applicants, irrespective of their demographics.

“In this instance, rather than litigating, we were able resolve our differences with the EEOC in a manner that is entirely consistent with our inclusive philosophies and our commitment to equal employment opportunities to all individuals.”

Earlier this month, a federal jury in Wisconsin awarded a disabled Walmart Inc. employee $5.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages, concluding the retailer had violated federal law when it allegedly refused to accommodate the long-time worker, said the EEOC, which had filed the litigation on the worker’s behalf. 


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