Smashburger, an international hamburger restaurant chain, has agreed to pay $70,000 and implement substantial non-monetary measures to settle a race harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a Smashburger manager in Long Island, N.Y., subjected an African American employee to a racially hostile work environment, frequently referring to him by racial slurs. She also harassed him for being in an interracial relationship, referring to him by racial slurs when speaking to his fiancée. The employee’s complaints to his district manager about this unlawful conduct were not taken seriously and the manager then succeeded in having him involuntarily transferred to a location much farther from his home, according to the EEOC. This conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from workplace harassment based on race.
On November 20, 2020, the federal court entered a three-year consent decree to resolve the discrimination case. The decree gives $70,000 in compensatory damages for emotional distress and other damages for the employee and grants non-monetary relief, including: revisions to Smashburger’s nation¬wide anti-discrimination policies; creation of nationwide procedures for the investigation of discrimination and retaliation complaints; nationwide training for supervisors, management, and human resources employees on prevention of discrimination; training for all New York employees; and periodic reporting to the EEOC.
EEOC Attorneys stated “Calling an African American employee by cruel racial epithets is both abhorrent and unlawful. It is the responsibility of every employer to take prompt, thorough action when it receives a report of racial harassment, Racial slurs are unacceptable in the workplace, and it is an employer’s obligation to take immediate corrective action once it becomes aware of such misconduct.”
Important Note: The New York State Human Rights and the New York City Human Rights Law provide additional protections against workplace discrimination. If you believe you are being discriminated against at work because of your race, sex, national origin, please contact Pechman Law Group 212-583-9500 to speak with one of our employment attorneys.