A Waukesha restoration contractor has agreed to pay $140,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging racial harassment and retaliation.
Giertsen Company of Wisconsin, which does business as Giertsen Restoration, will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to resolve allegations that it had allowed racial slurs and other abuses to be made at its workplaces, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported in a press release on Wednesday. In one instance cited by the EEOC, a Black employee who complained of mistreatment was assigned to more physically demanding labor and then later fired.
Giertsen offers restoration services for both homes and businesses damaged by fire, wind or water. Besides Waukesha, Giertsen has offices in the Chicago and Minneapolis areas. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Besides paying $140,000, Giertsen staff will have to undergo training and appoint an equal employment opportunity officer to handle future discrimination complaints. The EEOC filed suit against Giertsen in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the company.
Gregory Gochanour, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, said: “The law requires employers to take complaints of race harassment seriously and act swiftly to address such conduct in the workplace. We acknowledge Giertsen’s cooperation in the early resolution of this lawsuit and look forward to working with the company to ensure the workplace is free of harassment in the future.”
The EEOC held a hearing calling attention to the prevalence of racism in the construction industry on May 17. Called “Knocking Down Walls: Discrimination and Harassment in Construction,” it stressed the need to prevent such abuses on projects that will be paid for by the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill.