Five former employees of Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge in Utica Illinois, Leno Campbell, Suzanne Czarnecki, Michael DeLap, Mark Low and Lisa Meyers filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming sexual harassment, racial discrimination and gender discrimination. The lodge’s owners are Joseph Hook, Keith and Susan Wolick. The lawsuit also alleges the owners fostered an environment in which sexual harassment of female employees by the male owners was common.
Campbell, an african-american, was the lodge’s director of housekeeping and is claiming the owners discriminated against him because of his race including that Wolick often made remarks critical of blacks to other employees and to Campbell himself. Czarnecki the former resort’s revenue manager, and Meyers a former reservationist are claiming they were discriminated against because they were women and also allege Hook made sexual remarks and committed assault and battery against them, in that he made physical contact of a sexual nature without their consent.
The resorts attorney Mike Moody had this to say about the lawsuit:
“After an exhaustive investigation by the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) in which Grand Bear cooperated and steadfastly defended against these false charges, the EEOC terminated its investigation and filed no charges against Grand Bear. Grand Bear has every confidence that it will be vindicated in a court of law and denies that it discriminated against anyone in any way.”
However, Plaintiff’s attorney Erika Pedersen responded by stating:
“”The EEOC terminated its investigation of the claims against Grand Bear only because we, the plaintiffs, asked it to. We wanted to advance the litigation to federal court so we asked the EEOC to issue our clients their Notices of Right to Sue, which it is obligated to do. The EEOC made no finding either way and nothing about that process can or should be interpreted as a reflection on the merits of the claims or defenses. The allegations are very disturbing and serve as a reminder that sexual and racial harassment are still significant problems for many employees in this country. Each of our clients hopes that by bringing these claims, the working environment becomes better for current and future employees of Grand Bear and elsewhere.”
By way of background victims of discrimination must first file with the EEOC before they can file in court. In this case it was the intention of the Plaintiffs to proceed to federal court rather than wait for the EEOC to complete its investigation, which can take years. The Plaintiffs fulfilled their obligation by filing charges first with the EEOC and once they exhausted the administrative process, proceeded to court by filing their lawsuit.
All five plaintiffs allege they suffered emotional distress and the owners retaliated against them after they complained, with all losing their jobs. The lawsuit also alleges the owners knowingly employed a registered sex offender at the resort, despite the owners presenting the resort as family oriented.