Minnesota state human rights department found printing company violated civil rights laws

The MDHR found that the company violated the state's civil rights law when it routinely discriminated against a Black employee and his son.

A Minnesota-based printing company must enforce anti-discrimination policies and pay a former Black employee $45,000 for violating civil rights laws. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) reached a settlement on Thursday with Nahan printing company located in St. Cloud. The company was accused of fostering a toxic and racist work environment, the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting. 

The MDHR found that the company violated the state’s civil rights law when it routinely discriminated against a Black employee and his son. According to CBS News, the two were regularly harassed by white employees between 2018 and 2019. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) found that a company violated the state’s civil rights law when it routinely discriminated against a Black employee and his son. (Photo: Creative Commons/ShareAlike 4.0 International; CC BY-SA 4.0)

The harassment was detailed in a 2021 investigation that noted how the two employees were often subjected to racist comments and racial epithets. One employee refused to shake hands with the father and son because of their race. The investigation also found that employees refused to fix machinery for one of them because of his race, according to accounts in the two media outlets.

The father reported the harassment but management “ignored and minimized the complaints, violating their own policy that requires the company to investigate reports of harassment,” the MDHR found, according to the Star Tribune. One manager told the man to “deal with it or leave.” 

The father and son ultimately left the company.

“What’s concerning here is not just that employees were using racial slurs when referring to their fellow Black colleagues and making derogatory comments about Black people, but that management knew this was occurring and did nothing to stop it,” said Rebecca Lucero, human rights commissioner.

“This case demonstrates the persistence of racial discrimination and highlights how employers must proactively and intentionally work to end discriminatory practices to create a welcoming workplace for Black Minnesotans,” Lucero added. 

The MDHR determined that Nahan violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination, according to CBS News.

In a statement obtained by the Star Tribune, the company CEO Mike Ertel noted that Nathan has a zero-tolerance policy. “Over the course of 60 years in business, we have been committed to providing a safe work environment for all employees free from harassment, bias, intimidation and discrimination,” he wrote.

“In recent years, we have made numerous efforts to further enhance our work environment and company culture,” Ertel continued. “These efforts include implementation of an industry-accredited diversity, equity and inclusion program, a formal inclusive workplace policy, anonymous employee satisfaction surveys, and numerous employee appreciation programs.”

As part of the settlement agreement, Nahan must implement a transparent protocol for employees to report instances of discrimination. It must furnish the MDHR with an outline of how it investigates discriminatory behavior. Further, it is required to enforce anti-racial discrimination policies and train all staff and manager in anti-discrimination practices. The company must also pay the former employee $45,000. 

MDHR will monitor the company for two years to confirm that it is adhering to the terms of the settlement.

The former employee’s attorney, Benjamin Loetscher, told the Star Tribune that his client is eager for Nahan honor the settlement. “If so, he is glad that some additional protections have been added.”

“No resolution of a case like this is perfect, but my client hopes that we can make progress in the workplace,” Loetscher said.

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