Federal Court Enters Consent Decree Resolving EEOC Sex Harassment Suit Against Biewer Sawmill

Supervisor Repeatedly Exposed Himself to Female Employees, Federal Agency Charged

MADISON, Wis. – Judge William M. Conley of the federal district court in Madison has entered a consent decree resolving a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Biewer Wisconsin Sawmill, Inc. (BWS) of Prentice, Wis. The EEOC had charged that BWS, a major Midwestern lumber supplier, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it did not take immediate and appropriate action to stop a supervisor’s sexual harassment after learning that he had repeatedly exposed his genitals to female employees over several years.

The decree provides that BWS will pay employees Verna Weber and Patricia Stade a total of $55,000, prohibits future sexual harassment and requires that BWS provide anti-discrimination training to its managers and human resources personnel.

Wisconsin court records indicate that on November 12, 2009, several months after the EEOC filed its civil lawsuit, the supervisor, Billy J. Decker, was convicted in a criminal case (Case No. 08-CM-106) in Price County Circuit Court of two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior for twice exposing himself to Weber in 2008.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that when an employer learns of sexual harassment, it must take immediate, appropriate, and effective action to stop it,” said Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office which is responsible for EEOC litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. “Here the EEOC contended that supervisors were aware of the harassment but did not take immediate action, and women suffered as a result. We appreciate BWS’s willingness to work with us to provide relief for the victims and to ensure that harassment does not recur.”

The case was litigated by Senior Trial Attorney Dennis McBride of the Milwaukee Area Office, part of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office.

According to its web site, BWS is one of several affiliated companies engaged in the lumber business under the Biewer name in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois and headquartered in St. Clair, Mich. The companies manufacture and distribute products for a wide variety of building applications. They have sawmills in Prentice, Wis. and McBain, Mich., and manufacturing and distribution facilities in Seneca, Ill., and Lansing, Mich. They are affiliated with Biewer Logistics, which offers custom transportation and shipping management, and with Biewer Industrial Lumber, LLC, which is described as the companies’ “business-to-business” branch.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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