EEOC Sues Evergreen Kia For Sexual Orientation and Disability Discrimination

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Car Dealership Owner Subjected Employee to Constant Harassment for Being Gay and Having Crohn's Disease, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO - Chicago car dealership Evergreen Kia violated civil rights law by subjecting an employee to harassment because of his sexual orientation and disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on October 2.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that the owner of Evergreen Kia harassed a car salesperson for suffering from Crohn's disease and for being gay. The agency said the owner often used homophobic slurs when talking to and about the salesperson, made offensive jokes about gays, and made offensive comments about his disability.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disability Act of 1991 (ADA). Title VII prohibits discrimination because of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), and the ADA prohibits disability discrimination. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v Evergreen Motors, dba Evergreen Kia, Civil Action No. 17-cv-07084, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Blakey. The EEOC's lawsuit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. The government's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Miles Shultz and Laurie Elkin and EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, the EEOC's pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that Evergreen Kia subjected the employee to sex and disability harassment. She said among other examples of verbal and physical conduct, the owner often said the salesperson's sexual orientation caused his Crohn's disease.

"This employer's conduct violated two major federal disability laws," said Bowman. "No employee should be forced to work in conditions experienced by this salesperson."

Gregory Gochanour, EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago, added, "Employers must be mindful that sex harassment includes harassment because of an employee's sexual orientation. The harassment he faced - and by the company's owner, no less - is unacceptable and unlawful. The EEOC will vigorously enforce federal anti-discrimination law to ensure that employees are not faced with harassment because of their orientation or their disability, and that their employers are held accountable."

The EEOC's 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 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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