Can a company where 70% of the employees are African-American lose a racial discrimination lawsuit for not hiring African-Americans?

This is the question being asked in a case involving a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. The franchise is being accused of using discriminatory hiring practices by a former employee who claims she was fired for complaining about alleged racial discrimination.

Racial Discrimination in Hiring

According to the employee bringing the suit, issues with racial discrimination surfaced when a new management company took over operations. She became aware of the problem after a recording of a conversation between the store manager and another employee surfaced. On the recording, the store manager asks if potential new hires are black, and the employee replies “one of them is black, one of them is white.” According to court documents, the store manager replies, “We have our quota of blacks here. Do you have anybody else here white or Mexican? Anything else, I’m all for it.” When asked for a reason, the store manager states that the black employees scare the guests who are generally white businessmen.

The management company denies the racial discrimination and says there is “no truth to what is being said,” but they have opened an investigation to respond to the lawsuit. The company also reiterated that 70% of their employees are African-American. But does the fact that the restaurant employs a majority of African-Americans mean there are no discriminatory hiring practices? Absolutely not.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

If the allegations are true, then the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 during the process of hiring new workers and applied racial discrimination, regardless of how many minorities it already employed. The text of the Civil Rights Act states: “It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.”

The law also states that companies like Buffalo Wild Wing Restaurant cannot limit applications to a particular race or color. So if the manager’s statement of wanting “whites or Mexicans” is true, he has broken the law. Title VII also does not permit racially motivated decisions driven by business concerns—for example, concerns about the effect on employee relations or the negative reaction of clients or customers. Therefore, the concern that African-Americans make white customers uncomfortable does not justify the manager’s alleged hiring practices.

This is a federal law, so it applies to every state—including California—so if you’ve experienced retaliation after reporting racial discrimination in your workplace, or have experienced racial discrimination yourself, contact one of our employment lawyers for a free consultation.

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