Woman claims she lost her job after backing black co-worker

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A woman who worked at a small industrial company in Buffalo, Minn., alleges that she was fired after she recommended a black man for a job at the company, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency reported on Thursday.

Myrna Peltonen says Randall Smith had worked at Izza Bending Tube & Wire as a temporary worker, doing at least 500 hours of good work for the business. She says he was well-suited to be a permanent hire, and in August 2011, she went to bat for him with her boss, owner Scott Landgraf, according to the EEOC.

But Landgraf shot her down and added some "derogatory racist language," and then he told Peltonen to let Smith go, the woman alleges. She refused and was then demoted and her pay was cut, she says. When she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, she was laid off, then permanently fired.

"Federal law protects individuals who oppose on-the-job practices they reasonably believe are unlawful as well as those who file charges with EEOC," said John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Minnesota. "Challenging retaliatory discharges helps to make sure the system which the law provides for dealing with discrimination not only survives but actually works."

Landgraf was not immediately available for comment, the Star Tribune reports.

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