EEOC Sues Suisan Company, Ltd for Racial Harassment and Retaliation

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HONOLULU – Suisan Company, Limited (Suisan), a food distributor on the Big Island of Hawaii, violated federal law when its supervisors created and condoned a hostile work environment riddled with racial slurs and racist references to slavery and retaliated against an employee for complaining about racial harassment, the U.S. Equal Employ¬ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, supervisors at Suisan’s Hilo warehouse repeatedly used racial slurs involving the n-word and made racist references to slavery directed at an African American warehouse employee and then downplayed the harassment.  When the employee complained about the hostile work environment, he was suspended and then abruptly terminated the next day.     

“Race harassment remains prevalent in today’s workplaces,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “Employers should be vigilant in ensuring proper training and handling of complaints of harassment.”

Such alleged conduct violates the provisions against racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The EEOC filed its suit the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Suisan Company, Limited, Case No: 1:21-cv-00397-DKW-KJM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the African American warehouse employee, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.

Raymond Griffin, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Honolulu local office, added, “Employees have the right to protest against workplace discrimination without the fear of reprisal. Terminating an employee for speaking up about racial harassment is illegal and sends a message to others that may chill them from reporting incidents of discrimination or harassment.”

The Los Angeles District resolved three racial harassment lawsuits this year, providing more than $4 million dollars in compensation to victims of racial harassment.

According to its website, www.suisan.com, Suisan is the largest food distribution facility on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

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