Breakthru Beverage agrees to $950,000 settlement over employment discrimination allegations

The alcoholic beverage company allegedly offered its Illinois sales employees territory assignments and accounts that “when accepted, resulted in national origin or race discrimination,” according to the EEOC.

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Breakthru Beverage Group headquarters

Breakthru Beverage website

Breakthru Beverage Illinois has reached a $950,000 settlement to resolve allegations that the alcoholic beverage distributor’s process for assigning sales employees is discriminatory.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Wednesday that it found “reasonable cause to believe” that the Wirtz family-owned company offered its Illinois sales employees accounts and territory assignments that “when accepted, resulted in national origin or race discrimination.”

Breakthru Beverage denied practicing discriminatory conduct but agreed to settle the investigation instead of going to court, according to a news release from the EEOC. The company declined to comment but referred to a statement provided in the news release.

“We are proud of our diversity and our record of providing equal employment opportunities to all of our employees and applicants, irrespective of their demographics,” Erick Sytsma, Breakthru Beverage Illinois’ vice president of human resources, stated. “In this instance, rather than litigating, we were able resolve our differences with the EEOC in a manner that is entirely consistent with our inclusive philosophies and our commitment to equal employment opportunities to all individuals.”

Breakthru Beverage Group formed in a 2016 merger of Wirtz Beverage and Charmer Sunbelt. Rocky Wirtz, a Breakthru Beverage co-chairman, has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.

The company agreed to pay the $950,000 to its affected employees, as well as conduct anti-discrimination training for its Illinois sales force, establish systems to encourage diverse applicants and revise its anti-discrimination policy to prohibit making assignments based on race or national origin.

The company also agreed to hire someone who will monitor the demographics of employees applying for and receiving offers for sales positions, according to the news release. Breakthru Beverage Illinois will report these demographics to the EEOC for the next two years.

“We are pleased that BBI has agreed to monitor the demographics of its Illinois sales force to ensure all employees continue to have equal opportunities to service the accounts and work in the territories of their choice, based on their skills and abilities and not their race or national origin,” EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman said in a statement.

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