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Sterling Employment Law

Panera franchisee settles class action discrimination claim with black workers

The owner of several Panera Bread franchises recently agreed to pay $76,000 to settle a class action lawsuit filed by black workers who alleged that they were discriminated against for being black.

(Please note that this suit was filed against the owner of Panera franchises. That means Panera as a company wasn't being sued; our local Detroit Paneras didn't have anything to do with this case).

It's the second employment lawsuit against the same business in the past few years; both were settled out of court, so we should not assume the company actually violated employment laws in the way the plaintiffs alleged, but still, it is cause for concern.

The class action suit represents current and former employees who worked for the group of franchises between January 2008 and 2011 -- about 200 to 300 workers. It was filed by a black worker who claims that he was made to work in the kitchen and denied promotions because the company's head did not want black workers to work where customers could see them.

The first lawsuit that the franchise owner faced was filed by a white worker who claimed that the franchise owner violated his rights to medical leave.

In an interesting connection, the white worker in the first case also alleged that the fact that he kept giving the black worker who filed the second case cash register and front-house duties contributed to his wrongful termination.

Source: The Associated Press, "Panera franchisee settles Pa. suit by black worker," Joe Mandak, Sept. 18, 2012

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