In the media:
- Michigan Lawyers Weekly: "Company settles with ex-employee in racial harassment suit -- Claims included racial comments, retaliation" 05/07/2018
Facts of the case:
Plaintiff Elana Tucker, suffered the lonely existence of being the only black employee out of 30 employees in the production packaging department at Defendant Koegel Meats, for over 20 years. Elana Tucker was subjected to vile and cruel racial harassment by her white co-workers, over and over again. And, when Elana turned to her white management for help, nothing was done to stop the harassment. In fact, after Defendant John Koegel was made aware that someone had carved the racially offensive word “N-I-G” into a stall in the women’s bathroom – which was meant to offend Plaintiff, the only black employee in the department – he allowed the word to remain on the stall for over 8 ½ months. While Elana continued to complain about this incident, Defendant John Koegel admitted that all of the people who “investigated” the “N-I-G” incident were white. Further, Koegel admitted that no written statements were taken nor were any interviews recorded. In fact, no report was even prepared!
During her 20-year employment with Defendant Koegel Meats, Elana also had to endure the following harassment by her white co-employees:
An Osama Bin Laden poster was placed onto the front of Elana’s work locker;
Honey was dumped down the front of Elana’s work locker;
Frequently, the bathroom lights would be turned off on Elana while she was using the bathroom;
“Gorilla noises” were made when Elana walked by;
Comments were made to Elana including: “I’m gonna whip you”, “You ghetto”, “Go back to the burnt down houses in Flint”; your lazy and stupid;
Another employee come at Elana with a knife.
Despite Elana’s numerous verbal and written notices to her employer of the racial harassment, nothing was done and Elana’s lonely journey against the vile racism she suffered and opposed continued. Then, to make matters worse, Elana’s union representative, Bill Crim – who was supposed to be there to protect Elana’s rights – became so sick and tired of her opposing racial harassment that he actually began working with the employer – behind Elana’s back – to get her fired! Shockingly, the evidence showed that Bill Crim, who is white, actually teamed up with Defendants to terminate Elana’s employment and put it in writing! The document was written to Koegel Meat’s Executive Director, Kathy Koegel, and stated that Bill Crim wanted “Elana to be terminated on Tuesday”, and that the discharge document should use the words, “reprimand pending discharge.” And, they followed through with their plan of attack to the letter, even using the same recommended phraseology, “reprimand pending discharge”, on the document terminating Elana’s 20-year employment. Further, their “plan of attack” specifically referenced the grievance filed by Elana on 3/30/16 wherein she alleged “harassment and racism”, which is direct evidence of retaliation against Elana for her protected activity of opposing racism.
Summary of the case:
Type of Action: ELCRA Discrimination/Race, ELCRA Harassment/Race, ELCRA Opposition/Retaliation, Violations under the U.S. Constitution
Injuries Alleged: Loss of job, lost wages, outrage/emotional distress/mental anguish
Name of Case: Elana Tucker v. Koegel Manufacturing, Inc., and/or Koegel Meats, Inc., and John Koegel and Jeremy Leonard
Court: Genesee County Circuit Court
Case No: 16-107757-CZ
Name of Judge: Hon. Joseph J. Farah
Key To Winning: Plaintiff’s Counsel was able to objectively prove, beyond any doubt, that Defendants, specifically Defendant John Koegel, knew that the racially offensive word “N-I-G” had been carved into a stall in the women’s bathroom, as a way to intimidate and harass the only black employee in the department – Plaintiff – and, further, despite this knowledge, John Koegel allowed the offensive word to remain on the stall for over 8 ½ months.
Attorney for Plaintiff: Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko and Jarrett M. Pabst
Attorney for Defendants: Withheld