Houston Nightclub's Corporate Vice-President Made Explicit Racist Statements, Forced Out African-American Staff, Federal Agency Charged
HOUSTON – A Houston nightclub violated federal law when it discriminated against African-American waitresses to please one of the company’s bosses, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, beginning at least in September 2007, the management of Michael’s International Club prevented African-American waitresses from working their scheduled shifts when a company official visiting the club from corporate headquarters near Dallas. Local Houston managers told one of the African-American waitresses that Bert Stair, vice president and secretary of both Michael’s and parent corporation Burch Management, did not like African-American waitresses and dancers in his club.
The EEOC claims that Stair directly called at least one of the black waitresses a “n----r,” and told her “We don’t need any more n----rs in this club, we have enough.” The lawsuit further asserts that in mid-November 2007, African-American females working at the club insisted on speaking with Stair to discuss their complaints of race discrimination. The meeting, however, failed to change the working conditions, which had become intolerable for African-American females who were repeatedly prevented from working their scheduled shifts because of their race, and the EEOC contends that the women were forced to quit because of the racism.
Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against Duncan Burch, Inc., doing business as Michael’s International, and Burch Management Co., Inc. in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (Civil Action No. 4:11-cv-02453) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in any further race discrimination. The EEOC is also seeking back pay on behalf of a group of former waitresses and compensatory and punitive damages and other relief on their behalf.
EEOC’s Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher said, “This lawsuit will send a message to employers that the EEOC will vigorously enforce federal law by prosecuting companies whose staffing decisions are unapologetically motivated by unlawful racial preferences.”
In its print advertisements, Michael’s markets itself as “Houston’s Premier Latin Club,” featuring “Chicas Locas.” Burch Management Company runs approximately a dozen clubs in Texas.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.