Koegel Meats sends African-American Flint residents a clear message: You can buy our hot dogs, but we don't want you making them

In the media:

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
Settlement:    $145,000

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


In the Media:

Description of Case: 


(Big Bank And Wall Street "Old Boys' Network" Pay Female Advisor They Forced Out $275,000)

Debra DiPillo, a divorced mother raising a teenage child herself, was lured away from a good paying ($75,000 per year) job to work for Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor.  She was recruited by Defendant, Jerry Rhoden, and told that she would become a partner with the NMY Group when Senior Advisor, Renaldo Macciomei, retired, and would make so much money that she would be, “pissing on $75,000 per year”, to use his phrase.  

Shortly after starting her new position, Plaintiff's older, married male supervisor, Defendant Renaldo Macciomei, who was supposed to be training her, began conjuring up reasons for them to be alone, and started making sexual advances towards her, saying he "felt a connection", and "I really want to kiss you right now".  Plaintiff politely rebuffed the advances at first, but as the advances became more constant, she reported them to the Managing Partner and HR functionary, Defendant Jerry Rhoden. 

However, when DiPillo went to the person Merrill Lynch designated to hear sexual harassment complaints, Defendant, Jerry Rhoden, with her concerns about Macciomei’s unwelcome sexual advances, Rhoden looked Plaintiff in the eye, with a straight-face, and said –"Why don't you just f—k him?  Maybe then he'll retire …"(!!!)

Apparently at Merrill Lynch, it is alright for a male employee, including Defendant Macciomei, to solicit sex from female subordinates and co-workers, and treat them like in-house work concubines.  

The following morning, Rhoden proceeded to retaliate against the victim, DiPillo, by relocating her desk to a remote corner of the office.   He claimed that he had made a call to HR, and they told him to do so, but that was false.  He did not make a call to HR, nor even address the issue.  He simply made a mockery of her and told her that if anyone asked any questions as to why she was being relocated in the office to respond, “My numbers were down and Jerry thought it would be better for me to be in a less busy part of the office so I can focus better.”  Obviously, Defendant Rhoden silently made a decision to himself that the amount of money Macciomei brought in was more important than the honor and dignity of this single working mother – or the law of Michigan.

A month or so passed and DiPillo continued to receive advances and lunch invitations of Macciomei, all the while being put in the corner and accepting such treatment in order to keep food on the table for her and her son.  After DiPillo’s persistent refusals/rejections, Macciomei let DiPillo know that there were “no guarantees” of her Partnership status after his retirement.  The guarantee was now null and void.  DiPillo was forced to make a stand:  accept Macciomei's advances and stay employed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, or be forced out by him.  She chose to not accept his sexual advances and was forced to leave Bank of America Merrill Lynch, her dignity trumped.

As despicable as the individual Defendants' conduct was, Defendant Merrill Lynch's formal legal response to the lawsuit filed by DiPillo was reprehensible and vicious. When analytically reduced to its legal essence, Defendant Merrill Lynch's defense position in the lawsuit was – 

(1) Defendant Jerry Rhoden did not say, "Why don’t you just F--- him.   Maybe he will retire early", and that DiPillo was lying about that;

(2) But even if Defendant Rhoden did say it, he was "only joking"; and further

(3) Even if he wasn't joking, DiPillo probably "wanted it" anyhow, and that the sexual advances were not "unwelcome".

Defendant Merrill Lynch published these vicious falsities throughout the public record in Genesee County Circuit Court, and in oral argument in front of large groups of people. On August 20, 2015, Defendants, through their attorneys, actually contacted trial Judge Archie Hayman asking the Judge to stop publication of this write-up, which Judge Hayman, to his great credit, refused to do. 

The case went to ADR where a three member panel of prominent Genesee County Attorneys issued an award of $275,000 in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants Merrill Lynch, Jerry Rhoden and Renaldo Macciomei.  The case resolved through the ADR process for $275,000.  To her great credit, DiPillo refused to accept Defendants' offer of more money to "keep this all confidential", instead choosing to (1) clear her name of the reprehensible slanders Defendant Merril Lynch used to defend this lawsuit, and (2) let other women know that they have rights under Michigan law.

Overview of Case:

Type of Action: ELCRA quid pro quo sex discrimination and sexual harassment

Injuries Alleged: Constructive discharge

Name of Case: Debra DiPillo v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., et al

Court: Genesee County Circuit Court 

Case No: 14-103504-CZ

Tried Before: N/A

Name of Judge: Hon. Archie Hayman

Jury Verdict: N/A

Date of ADR Settlement: 8/14/15

Last Offer to Settle: Case settled through ADR process

Most Helpful Experts: N/A

Allocation of Fault: N/A

Insurance Carrier: N/A

Attorney for Plaintiff: Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko and Jarrett M. Pabst

Attorney for Defendants: Alice Kokodis, and Paul Wilhelm