Recent cases in the United States show the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recovering significant compensation from various corporations for victims of discrimination and victimisation (referred to as retaliation in the US). Compensation was payable for violations of Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act 1964.

The EEOC’s powers

The EEOC’s objectives are to promote and enforce employment related anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC investigates reports of employment discrimination. Where discrimination is found, it attempts to reach settlement with the relevant employer. Wide communication of the negotiated settlements educates and encourages compliance. Where an employer will not settle, the EEOC has authority to bring proceedings to protect the rights and interests of individual employees and the public more broadly.

Similar to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act 2010, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin. However, unlike Australia’s human-rights bodies, the EEOC can investigate breaches on behalf of victims, often taking on large organisations.

We explore two recent cases below, in which the EEOC held high-profile corporations accountable for unlawful discrimination. In both cases, large compensation sums were paid to settle the cases. Further, the settlement sums were made public.

These cases, albeit in a different jurisdiction, remind employers about their obligation to address discrimination in the hiring process, as well as in the workplace. Further, they remind employers not to act to the detriment of employees who make complaints under workplace legislation (like EEO or OHS laws).

Case 1: Keystone Foods LLC- retaliation for pregnancy-discrimination complaint

The EEOC recovered $60,000 compensation from Keystone Foods LLC, a major supplier of the global food service industry. [1] Compensation was payable for its retaliatory discrimination against a previous employee who filed a report with the EEOC for pregnancy discrimination.

This case demonstrates how Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 protects current and former employees, and prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who choose to file or have filed an EEOC charge against their employer. In effect, Title VII prevents employers from ‘blacklisting’ employees who report discrimination.

Case 2: Packaging Corporation of America Central California Corrugated, LLC – racial discrimination

The EEOC recovered $385,000 in damages to compensate two African American employees who suffered racial discrimination while working at the large Sacramento paper manufacturing plant, Packaging Corporation of America Central California Corrugated, LLC. [2]

Title VII requires employers to investigate and address racial harassment and discrimination, but the employer failed to take any action upon learning about the discrimination. As stipulated by the settlement, the employer will ‘implement policies and procedures to facilitate the prompt and thorough investigations of any future complaints of discrimination or harassment’.

This article was prepared by Legal Research Assistant Elle Hendriksen. If you require assistance in updating your policies, training or complaint-handling mechanisms, or require advice about a potential EEO matter or investigation, please contact our team.

This blog was written by Legal Research Assistant, Elle Henriksen.


[1] EEOC v. Keystone Foods LLC, Case No. 2:21-cv-00629-MHT-JTA.

[2] EEOC v. Packaging Corporation of America Central California Corrugated, LLC, et al., Case No. 2:20-cv-01948-MCE-CKD.