Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Joplin men's lawsuit against Schreiber Foods alleges sexual discrimination, wrongful termination

Two fired Schreiber Foods employees filed a lawsuit against the company today in Jasper County Circuit Court alleging sexual discrimination and wrongful termination.

According to the petition, Elliott Miller and Michael Crouch claim they were discriminated against because they are openly gay and had been harassed by fellow employees prior to being fired. When they complained about the harassment, management failed to properly investigate and fostered a hostile work environment, the lawsuit alleges.

Miller, 27 worked as a wrapper operator and Crouch, 26, was a packaging operator. Both men had received promotions, raises, praises and awards for their work, the lawsuit said.

The allegations are detailed in the petition:

From the petition:

Plaintiff Miller was sexually harassed by his male coworker, beginning in or around September 2022, who continuously made comments about his sexuality and stereotypes regarding his gender. This male coworker made comments about Plaintiff Miller being able to handle “lizards”, referring to male genitalia, asked how many men Plaintiff had been with, and said he bet a lot of men sneak up behind Plaintiff, inferring Plaintiff’s sexual position. 

On or about November 29th, Plaintiff Miller’s coworker falsely reported that Plaintiff Miller made gay sexual jokes that made him uncomfortable in retaliation for Plaintiff Miller sitting in on a meeting involving a decision regarding Plaintiff’s coworker. 

Plaintiff Miller made his team leader aware of the sexual jokes, comments, and harassment that his coworker made to him, and that Plaintiff had never made any sexual jokes. 

Plaintiff Miller attended another meeting on or about December 8th regarding the issues with the sexual harassment from his coworker and informed his team leader that he believed that he was being retaliated against because of his complaints and because of his sexual orientation and gender presentation. This was supported by several other partners on the floor, including Plaintiff Crouch. 

Plaintiff Miller’s team lead informed him that this male coworker did not want her to make Plaintiff Miller aware of the sexual harassment complaint against Plaintiff because “that’s just his lifestyle."

Thereafter, Plaintiff Miller requested a meeting with HR because he felt his team lead was not being objective, made inappropriate comments about his sexual orientation/gender stereotypes, and was dismissing his concerns of harassment and discrimination. 

On or about December 19th, Plaintiff Miller was formally written up, even though his coworker was the one who had been sexually harassing him. In or around December, there were two incidents in which Plaintiff Miller’s male coworker threw two heavy cans of aerosol chemicals at Plaintiff. The can narrowly missed Plaintiff Miller and dented his machine. 

Plaintiff Miller feared for his safety and took the can. Plaintiff Miller immediately reported to the leadership that he was being harassed and working in a hostile, and dangerous work environment. The male coworker’s harassment of Plaintiff Miller increased after this report, including the throwing of another can and the coworker coming into Plaintiff’s area and staring him down and following Plaintiff if he took a break or left his area for any reason.  

Both Plaintiff Miller and Crouch felt very uncomfortable and feared for their safety around this coworker; Plaintiff Miller often cried in his work area out of fear of being hurt by this male coworker. 

Plaintiff Miller reported this to HR and his supervisors. There were five or six people who witnessed this coworker’s behavior and spoke up on Plaintiff Miller’s behalf and stated that Plaintiff was being harassed. However, HR and leadership ignored Plaintiff Miller’s requests that this harassment and hostile work environment be stopped. 

Plaintiff Crouch also made complaints about the harassment and work environment to management, and these complaints were also ignored. 

On or about January 30th, 2023, Plaintiff Miller had a conversation with the Head of HR during which he was told that HR did not see anything serious enough to warrant anything more than a verbal warning to his male coworker. The Head of HR also said harassment cases “aren’t valid in manufacturing.” Plaintiffs were shocked. HR did not do a complete investigation and did not even talk with witnesses, including Plaintiff Crouch. 

While HR met with the Regional HR individuals, Plaintiff Miller was told not to talk to anyone about the issues or he would receive an additional, more severe write up. 

In or around February, Plaintiffs met with HR and Plaintiff Miller’s team leader and informed them that they felt HR was not doing any investigation as required into their complaints of sexual harassment, harassment, hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation, even though Plaintiffs requested an investigation be done. 

On or about March 13th, Plaintiffs informed Plaintiff Miller’s supervisor again that the male coworker was continuing to harass Plaintiff Miller and come into his area at work for no legitimate reason. Plaintiffs requested that this coworker not come to Plaintiff Miller’s area. This complaint was ignored, and nothing was done. 

The next day, March 14th, Plaintiff Miller’s coworker entered his area three times, glaring at him and trying to intimidate him. Instead of investigating Plaintiffs’ complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, the Plaintiffs were both placed on discriminatory and retaliatory 5-day unpaid suspension on or about Tuesday, March 21st for accidentally forgetting to clock out when they left to get coffee for the entire line on or about March 16th, only two days after the Plaintiffs’ latest complaints. 

This policy violation was unintentional and happened frequently at Defendant’s facility with no or minor repercussions to other employees, with many other employees stating this should only be a verbal warning. 

A supervisor informed Plaintiffs that he had received a minor level 1 write-up for the same offense. Plaintiffs each received a level 3 write-up pending termination. 

Plaintiffs received this discipline after having a discussion with management regarding the harassment and hostile work environment allegations on or about March 13th. Management also refused to give Plaintiffs copies of the paperwork they filled out related to this incident. 

Defendant’s factory head of HR called Plaintiffs and left a voicemail stating that they were extending their suspension regarding the alleged policy break, which was against Defendant’s own policies.

Plaintiff Miller sent follow up emails complaining of harassment, retaliation, and discrimination due to his sexual orientation and complaints of harassment. Plaintiff Crouch emailed Defendant on or about March 30th, 2023, asking why the suspension had been extended further, given this was against Defendant’s policy and made further complaints of discrimination and retaliation related to his sexual orientation and participation in the inquiry into the harassment complaints Plaintiffs made. 

On or about March 31st, 2023, Plaintiffs were illegally terminated. 

The three-count lawsuit includes claims by Miller and Crouch of discrimination and retaliation, and a worker's compensation retaliation claim by Miller.

The plaintiffs, who are represented by Raymond A. Dake of Siro Smith Dickson PC, Kansas City, are requesting a jury trial.


Anonymous said...

Today, Companies have to have provide both Management and Employee Training to create a Safe Environment for their Employees. If their HR Department failed to do so or ignored complaints then this HR Manager, needs to be reprimanded or terminated as well as any Mangers or Employees.

It is too Time Consuming and Potentially Costly to ignore or not act when issues happen inside a company. Lawyers are a dime a dozen and always on the look-out to file a discrimination, wrongful termination, work comp, or other lawsuits against a company.

So, Spend Time Educate / Train your Managment and Employees of the Rules and Guidelines of your Employee Handbook, and reprimand and/or terminate any that do not want to follow these Rules. I am afraid today - Zero Tolerance has to be the Norm, No Exceptions.

Anonymous said...

Zero tolerance can’t hurt the feelings of the alphabet gang, so tired of pandering to this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the problem is you can have the Best Company and yet 1-Stupid thing that is said or done by you or an employee can create an unsafe work environment and these attorneys will jump all over this and sue you and your insurance company into submission.

Anonymous said...

Aww someone needs a nap

Anonymous said...

Close it should say
Aww I’m so tired of this crap

Anonymous said...

"Zero tolerance can’t hurt the feelings of the colored gang, so tired of pandering to this nonsense."

Does that still sound like a reasonable sentence to anyone? If so, you are genuinely the problem.

If the original sentence sounds reasonable, you are genuinely the problem.

Anonymous said...

Colored gang? You sound racist

Anonymous said...

@11:42 That's exactly the point, to show @8:45 how ignorant they are.

Anonymous said...

This company has gone above and beyond to accommodate rights and this lawsuit is based on retaliation against a company that terminated them for abusing attendance policies or break policies. Nothing to do with their sexuality. Total money grab for these 2 terminated employees for breaking policy. This is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

They were fired for leaving work without clocking out that is policy it's on camera ,this company does not discriminate, these partners broke policy all the time to the point of ridiculous .they should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

The alphabet gang, pronoun party, tries to cram it down our throats, I know what they are doing is wrong, and so do you, and so do they, just I don’t have to go along with their delusional way of thinking. Be gay, trans, etc just don’t try to make me believe it’s ok. I seem to remember a story about a pillar of salt but hey you do you. We will all know how it shakes out when we are dead.

Anonymous said...

They broke policy and as per policy were given a group 3 and suspended pending termination . Ignorance of policy or forgetting to clock out doesn’t excuse the fact you broke policy . I agree with the statement above , this is nothing but a money grab !
Promotions and awards are not a thing here , and we all received raises . You bid for jobs and or go through an interview process . This company does not discriminate, it is a very inclusive and diverse company .