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The Practical Employer

The Next Nominee for Worst Employer of 2017 Is … the Whata(alleged)racist

You’d think by now that all employers would know that you cannot hire an employee expressly based on their race.

It has been 53 years since Congress banned racial discrimination in employment. You’d think by now that all employers would know that you cannot hire an employee expressly based on their race.

Yet how does one explain this lawsuit, recently filed against Whataburger?

Via USAToday:

A former manager of a Florida Whataburger restaurant alleged she was retaliated against and forced to resign because she would not carry out racially discriminatory hiring practices as directed by higher-ups. …

According to the lawsuit, Burrous, who is white, was pressured by the restaurant’s general manager to hire white employees but not black ones. Among other things, the general manager, Johanna Risk, directed her to review applications and only interview applicants who had white-sounding names. …

Around April 2015, Burrous conducted open interviews of applicants and hired eight crew members, seven of whom were black. That “infuriated” Risk and intensified her anger against Burrous, leading to repeated reprimands against her.

About a month later, Burrous and Risk met with Misa Levin, the area manager over Tallahassee’s five Whataburger locations. …

“Levin told Ms. Burrous that Whataburger’s ‘customer base is white and we want the faces behind the counter to match the customer base,’ ” the lawsuit says.

If you direct your managers only to hire employees of a certain race, and retaliate against her when she refuses, you might be the worst employer of 2017.
Update: I just received the following statement from Whataburger’s media relations team, which I am printing verbatim:

 “Based on our thorough internal investigation, we deny the allegations. We did not retaliate against this employee nor did we ask her to use the alleged discriminatory hiring practices. We value diversity on our teams and proudly employ Family Members of all races. Approximately 75 percent of our workforce identifies as non-white.”

Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.