By Celeste Bott
October 23, 2019
An Illinois liquor distributor has agreed to pay nearly $1 million to resolve a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation that found the company discriminated against sales employees based on race or national origin, the agency said Wednesday.
Under the settlement, Breakthru Beverage Illinois LLC will pay $950,000 rather than pursue the matter further through litigation. Other terms of the deal include BBI conducting anti-discrimination training for its Illinois sales force, reporting the demographics of its sales force to EEOC for two years and revising its anti-discrimination policy to more expressly prohibit segregation by offering account and territory assignments based on race.
The company will also hire a monitor to track the demographics of employees applying for and receiving offers for sales jobs in Illinois and take steps to encourage a more diverse applicant pool for open jobs, the agency said.
The EEOC investigation found reasonable cause to believe BBI had discriminated. BBI has denied discriminatory or unlawful conduct.
The agency said the settlement will both provide monetary relief to those who faced the alleged discrimination and prevent discrimination from occurring in the future.
“Even when pay and benefits are the same, a divided workforce can lead to decreased employee morale and reduced promotional opportunities for minority applicants,” the EEOC’s Chicago District director, Julianne Bowman, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are pleased that BBI has agreed to monitor the demographics of its Illinois sales force to ensure all employees continue to have equal opportunities to service the accounts and work in the territories of their choice, based on their skills and abilities and not their race or national origin.”
Erick Sytsma, BBI’s vice president of human resources, said the company is proud of its diversity and a record of providing equal employment opportunities to all workers and applicants “irrespective of their demographics,” but agreed the settlement was the right course of action.
“In this instance, rather than litigating, we were able resolve our differences with the EEOC in a manner that is entirely consistent with our inclusive philosophies and our commitment to equal employment opportunities to all individuals,” Sytsma said in a statement.
Breakthru Beverage Group is a beverage wholesaler operating in the United States and Canada, with more than 7,000 employees representing wine, spirit and beer brands totaling more than $5 billion in annual sales, according to the company.