An Ohio company that owns Panera Bread franchises in several states, including Kentucky, has settled a race discrimination lawsuit involving an ex-employee in Pennsylvania. The settlement will cost the company at least $76,000, possible more if additional employees come forth to say they experienced discrimination too.
The employment discrimination lawsuit claimed that the ex-employee, who is African-American, was only allowed to work in the kitchen at the restaurant, per the owner of the franchise. He was not allowed to serve customers, run the register or seek a management position because he was not to be seen by anyone. As a result, he was denied any chance of being promoted, even though he worked at the restaurant from November 2009 through August 2011. He finally left because of the alleged unfair treatment.
His lawsuit was not the first filed against the franchisee. A white manager who had been fired at the same restaurant supposedly over medical leave violations filed a lawsuit claiming he had been wrongfully terminated because he refused to stop having an African-American man run the cash register. According to the suit, a district manager said the franchisee would "(expletive) if he got a look at that." The employee that was being allowed to run the register is the one who filed the above lawsuit in January 2012.
The African-American employee will receive approximately $10,000 from the settlement. In addition to paying damages and attorneys' fees, the franchisee was also ordered by the judge to place a notice in local newspapers in every state he has a restaurant, notifying other employees of the settlement in case they were discriminated against as well. They will have the opportunity to join the lawsuit and receive 70 cents per hour for every hour they worked after their first year. This amount represents the extra money they could have earned if they had been given the chance to be promoted after their first year of employment. One attorney estimates that 200-300 current and former employees that were employed by the franchisee between January 2008 and January 2012 may be entitled to this compensation.
Although he maintained his innocence throughout the lawsuit and denied every discriminating against any of his employees, the franchisee has promised not to discriminate against any of his workers in the future. This stipulation is common in lawsuits. Oftentimes the accused employer is required to provide training to managers and other supervisory staff regarding discrimination. They may also be required to submit reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or equivalent state agency showing that discrimination is no longer occurring.
Because this businessman has Panera restaurants in Kentucky, some Kentucky workers may be eligible for compensation from this lawsuit. If you think you worked at one of these restaurants, contact a Kentucky discrimination attorney for more information. The employment law attorneys at Miller & Falkner are able to answer any questions you may have regarding this discrimination case, or any other employment issues.
Panera Franchisee Settles Pa. Suit by Black Worker; Associated Press; Joe Mandak; September 18, 2012