Education Association Union Sued For Race Discrimination

May 4, 2023

Discrimination lawsuits against employers are common. Suits against unions are rare. However that’s what’s happening to Sunnybrook Education Association, IEA-NEA, (“Sunnybrook Union”), a labor union representing teachers and educational support personnel in the Sunnybrook School District.

In the lawsuit EEOC v. Sunnybrook Education Association, IEA-NEA, 1:23-cv-02804) filed in the U.S. District Court of Illinois, Northern District, Eastern Division today, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charges Sunnybrook Union with violating federal civil rights law by blocking the promotion of an African American custodian to the role of head custodian because of his race,

The EEOC said that Sunnybrook Union grieved the promotion of a Black employee of Sunnybrook School District 171 rather than ignoring the promotion or negotiating a memorandum of understanding, as it had done in other cases where non-Black employees received promotions or salaries that did not conform to the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”).

The lawsuit charges this conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits labor organizations from discriminating against members on the basis of race and causing or attempting to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual because of their race, sex, religion, or other protected class. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and a commitment from the union to permit the employee to receive his promotion and raise.

Comments of EEOC officials about the lawsuit show the EEOC is serious about prosecution of workplace race discrimination whether committed by labor or management. “The Sunnybrook Union should be opening doors for the employees it represents, not standing in the way of their advancement,” said Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “Here, we have an employee doing the job of a head custodian but prevented from receiving the benefits of that job because of his race.”

More Information

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About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 35+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications. As a significant part of her work, Ms. Stamer has worked extensively domestically and internationally with business, government and community leaders to prepare for and deal with pregnancy, disability and other discrimination, leave, health and safety, and other workforce, employee benefit, health care and other operations planning, preparedness and response for more than 35 years. As a part of this work, she regularly advises businesses and government leaders on an on-demand and ongoing basis about preparation of workforce, health care and other business and government policies and practices to deal with management in a wide range of contexts ranging from day to day operations, through times of change and in response to complaints, investigations and enforcement.

Author of a multitude of other highly regarded publications and presentations on MHPAEA and other and health and other benefits, workforce, compliance, workers’ compensation and occupational disease, business disaster and distress and many other topics, Ms. Stamer has worked with health plans, employers, insurers, government leaders and others on these and other health benefit, workforce and performance and other operational and tactical concerns throughout her adult life.

A former lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its pension privatization project, Ms. Stamer also has worked domestically and internationally as an advisor to business, community and government leaders on health, severance, disability, pension and other workforce, health care and other reform, as well as regularly advises and defends organizations about the design, administration and defense of their organization’s workforce, employee benefit and compensation, safety, discipline and other management practices and actions.

Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law By the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with OCR, Chair-Elect of the ABA TIPS Medicine and Law Committee, Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, and Past Group Chair and current Welfare Plan Committee Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

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