A woman filed a federal lawsuit last week accusing a Mitchell manufacturing plant of racial and retaliatory discrimination against her while she was an employee.
Gwendolyn Moore, who worked at Graphic Packaging International, LLC's Mitchell plant from July 2015 until she was fired in June 2017, filed her complaint alleging civil rights and human relations violations on July 1. She's requesting a jury trial and relief for damages in excess of $75,000.
The complaint asserts that although Moore, the only Asian person working her particular shift when she was hired as a glue operator, met company expectations, she was disciplined and supervised less favorably than her white coworkers and was blamed "for her Caucasian co-worker's performance issues."
In 2016, Moore told those she reported to that she thought her white coworkers had better employment conditions. She also reported an incident of alleged sexual harassment and a coworker making a comment about her ethnicity.
According to the complaint, Graphic Packaging International, LLC, tells its employees to report incidents of suspected discrimination and provides them with a human resources hotline to which they can make those reports. It alleges that on Dec. 26, 2016, someone used Moore's hotline number to make an anonymous complaint about one of her coworkers' job performance.
Though she denies making the call and other employees reportedly said other hotline calls had been made about the same coworker, Moore was allegedly blamed for it, resulting in confrontation by Moore's supervisor.
In January 2017, Moore was given a negative performance review and denied a raise, though the complaint says she was performing well. Throughout the next few months, she reportedly received warnings and continued negative reviews, and several other incidents occurred that Moore alleges show she was being treated differently from other employees.
The alleged discrimination culminated in June 2017, when Moore was called into her supervisor's office and told she was accused of pushing another employee, leaving a bruise. Moore denied that, and several days later, she was reportedly told that CCTV footage did not show her pushing her coworker. On June 26, 2017, the complaint states Moore was fired for the alleged push.
Moore filed a charge of discrimination on Oct. 5, 2017.
Moore's attorney, Stephanie E. Pochop, wrote in the complaint that Graphic Packaging International, LLC violated Moore's rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and under the South Dakota Human Relations Act by discriminating against her based on her race and for suspending and ultimately terminating her in retaliation to her opposition to that alleged discrimination.
Pochop wrote that those alleged violations led to "past and present loss of income, mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of reputation and other damages," and Moore will be seeking reparations for those alleged damages through her lawsuit.