Discrimination Attorneys Examine Race-based Wrongful Termination
Fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. is facing allegations of unlawful employment discrimination after the firing of ten African-American and Hispanic workers from three of the company’s Virginia locations. According to the complaint filed in early 2014 in the case of Betts v. McDonald’s Corp., the employees’ supervisors made several racist and discriminatory statements prior to the discharging of the employees, conduct that violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
What is Title VII?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion. It ensures equal employment opportunities and prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes about abilities, traits or performance of individual workers based on race.
Thanks to Title VII, discrimination is unlawful in regard to recruiting practices, hiring decisions, promotions, employment transfers, assignments, performance measurements, training, discipline, wages, benefits and any other condition relative to employment. The act prohibits both intentional discrimination and unintentional discrimination through job policies that disproportionately affect employees of different racial groups.
Did McDonald’s Corp. Violate Title VII?
The terminated McDonald’s workers plan to submit supervisor statements as evidence of discrimination in their case. The employees’ supervisors allegedly had the following to say about the employees:
- “There were too many black people in the store”
- The restaurants are “too dark”
- The fired employees “didn’t fit the profile” of the organization
Statements like these seem to indicate discrimination in violation of Title VII, provided the supervisors in question were also the ones responsible for the terminations. Even without direct evidence of these statements, courts could still consider the statements based on context and surrounding circumstances to decide whether race played a part in the workers’ firings.
Legal Precedent for Supervisor Statements Leading to Title VII Violations
- EEOC v. U.S. Dry Cleaning Serv. Corp.: A regional manager told an African-American employee that his promotion was denied because his “skin color was not right for this store, for this community.” The courts ruled that the manager clearly had no understanding of anti-discrimination laws and her role in enforcing them as a manager.
- Shackleford v. Publix Super Mkts. Inc.: A supermarket team leader expressed her desire for employees to mirror the store’s clientele of young white women. The vast majority of the team leader’s employees were white, and fewer African-American employees were hired under her management.
- Atkins v. LQ Mgmt. LLC: African-American hotel workers described hostile working conditions wherein only white workers were allowed to perform their duties in view of customers. Non-white employees were forced to enter and exit the building through the back door. This segregation is a direct violation of Title VII. Additionally, the supervisor made discriminatory statements toward workers based on racial stereotypes.
Despite the unlawfulness of race-based discrimination in the workplace, it is still a real problem for minority workers. If the allegations against McDonald’s are true, then the terminated workers could be entitled to major punitive damages such as lost wages and wrongful termination damages.
If you have experienced discrimination in your workplace, you should contact an experienced labor law attorney to find out if you have a potential workplace discrimination claim.