Juanita O’Connell, herself of Mexican descent, has worked at the company since 1987 and was recently promoted to general manager. In her complaint filed with the district court in Indianapolis, she alleges that the team operations leader, Mark Lewis, told her not to hire Hispanics last year. When he came to her store and saw a Hispanic employee, he told her “Didn’t I tell you not to hire Hispanics?”
Her lawyer, Joel Paul of the Ramey & Hailey law firm, told ThinkProgress that she does have a witness who was present when Lewis made the statement.
Two weeks later, she says a higher up issued her a disciplinary warning, “after asking [her] misleading questions about her operation.” Then, three hours later, she was fired on the grounds of violating the manger code and having an I-9 violation:
The complaint also alleges that she was treated differently than other, similar, non-Hispanic, male employees in violation of Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, and other characteristics.
Taco Bell has not returned a request for comment.
O’Connell is seeking “whatever she’s entitled to under the law,” Paul said. In the complaint, she requests Taco Bell pay lost wages and benefits, attorneys’ fees and litigation costs, and any other relief.
She’s not the only one bringing a case against a fast food company that alleges racial discrimination. Two former McDonald’s employees have accused the company of failing to address the racial slurs used by their manager, calling his employees n***er, saying the restaurant got busy at the end of the month because black customers had gotten their welfare checks, and sending them racially charged videos. The women also allege that the manager sexually assaulted and harassed them.
People of color are overly represented in low-paid fast food jobs — restaurants are the single largest employer of people of color, and they make up 35 percent of fast food prep and cook positions despite representing 32 percent of the workforce. But as some of these cases show, the environment can often be racially charged. The restaurant industry is also notorious for gender harassment, as it’s the single-largest source of sexual harassment claims.
Racism in my America? Get outta here. Business are perfect. They’d never discriminate based on race or sex. Otherwise, that’d mean all the libertarian talking points about not needing a government to enforce a meritocracy are lies.