Worker Fired After Protesting Racist Images Wins Huge Payout
A restaurant worker who was fired by his employer for complaining about racist images was awarded $56,000 in damages. In 2010, African-American waiter Dion Miller complained to several managers at Sparx Restaurant in Menomonie, Wis., after he found several offensive images in the back of a store. These included a dollar bill with the noose around the neck of a black-faced George Washington, swastikas and a man in a KKK hood.
After complaining, the managers told him that they themselves had posted the images and it was intended to be a joke. But just one month later, Miller was fired for having a “bad attitude.” He sued over his retaliatory firing with the help of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and officially won his case last September. He won $15,000 in damages for emotional distress, but a judge ruled last week that the restaurant’s owner, Northern Star Hospitality, pay Miller an additional $41,000 in back wages and interest. Furthermore, Northern Star owner Chris Brekken and the other managers must undergo racial sensitivity training.
Anti-discrimination efforts would come to a standstill if employees weren’t allowed to freely complain about racist and discriminatory conduct,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago district. “Employers who punish employees who do complain are following a self-destructive scenario and ought not to be surprised when the EEOC shows up.”
After the negative publicity surrounding the case against Sparx, they closed down shortly after the initial September ruling.