Agency Says Janitorial Companies Harassed and Fired Hispanic Employees and Retaliated Against Supervisors Who Refused to Terminate Them
CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit today against RJB Properties, Inc. and Blackstone Consulting, Inc., charging that the companies discriminated against Hispanic employees because of their national origin, sexually harassed a male employee, and retaliated against employees who objected to the discrimination against Latino employees.
RJB, based in Orland Park, Ill., provides facilities management and janitorial services. RJB’s president is Ronald Blackstone, and his son, Joe Blackstone, is president of Blackstone. Blackstone, based in Los Angeles, provides janitorial and food services. The EEOC’s lawsuit arose out of charges of discrimination filed by 14 employees who worked for RJB as janitors or supervisors. Blackstone is named in the suit because a vice president of Blackstone supervised the employees at RJB and directed or participated in the alleged discrimination against them.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, RJB and Blackstone fired at least six Hispanic employees because of their national origin. They also subjected Latino employees to harassment and different terms and conditions of employment by subjecting them to derogatory names and comments, forcing them to do more work than non-Latino employees, subjecting them to greater scrutiny and stricter work rules than non-Hispanic employees, and denying them overtime. The EEOC alleges that a male employee was sexually harassed and that he was fired for refusing to submit to his supervisor’s sexual advances. In addition, the EEOC claims that RJB and Blackstone retaliated against employees who objected to the discrimination, including two African American supervisors who refused to fire Hispanic employees.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits national origin discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC will seek relief for the 14 employees who filed discrimination charges, as well as a class of employees who were discriminated against because of their national origin or retaliated against for objecting to such discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, EEOC v. RJB Properties, Inc., and Blackstone Consulting, Inc., No. 10 CV 2001, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The case was assigned to District Judge Elaine Bucklo and Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys
John Rowe, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, oversaw the investigation of the charges of discrimination underlying the lawsuit. Rowe said the EEOC investigation revealed that RJB and Blackstone fired one supervisor who refused to follow his supervisor’s orders to fire Hispanic employees, and made the working conditions of another supervisor who refused to go along with the discriminatory orders so intolerable that he was forced to resign.
“Federal law protects employees who refuse to carry out their employer’s discriminatory instructions,” said Rowe.
EEOC Trial Attorney Ann Henry, who will lead the government’s litigation effort, added, “Employers cannot apply one set of rules to Hispanic workers and another set of rules to non-Hispanic workers, which is what we found occurred here. The consistent, differential treatment of Hispanic employees created a work environment that was hostile towards Latinos. All they wanted was to be treated the same as their co-workers. That is one of the goals we hope to achieve through this suit.”
The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.