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Panda Express Sued By EEOC For National Origin Bias

Manager Favored Asians Over Hispanics, Federal Agency Charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Chinese  fast food restaurant chain Panda Restaurant Group  violated federal law by treating its Latino employees differently from Asian  workers at one of its San Jose  restaurants, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in  a lawsuit filed today.

According to  the EEOC, the general manager of the Panda Express located on El Paseo de  Saratoga gave less desirable assignments to Hispanic workers, reduced their  hours and held them to a different standard of performance. Aremy Lomely and other Hispanic workers who  worked as counter help were required to clean the bathroom, tables and  counters, while Asian employees were permitted to simply stand around and watch,  said the federal agency. In addition, the  EEOC found that the general manager disciplined Latino employees in a stricter,  harsher and more frequent manner than Asian employees for similar infractions.

“[The general  manager’s] treatment of Mexican workers really divided us from the Asian  workers,” said Lomely. “I felt so  ashamed when the Asian workers watched me obediently run from the bathroom to  the tables to the counters, cleaning when they did not have to. For months, he treated me like a worthless  employee, disciplining me for things he would never hold against his  non-Hispanic food line servers. It is  such a relief to know that the law says this is not OK.”

Discrimination  based on national origin violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of  1964. After first attempting to reach a  pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit EEOC v. Panda Express, Inc. in U.S.  District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking monetary  damages on behalf of the Hispanic workers, training on anti-discrimination  laws, posting of notices at the work site and other measures to prevent future  discrimination.

EEOC San  Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Favoring employees of one ethnicity over another is not only illegal  but undermines the benefits of a diverse work force. The law, as well as common sense, requires  employers to base employment decisions on the skills, experience and  merit of individual employees instead of national origin or ancestry.”

Michael  Baldonado, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Director, added, “Although the company  had a written policy against discrimination, clearly there was a failure to  implement it. We hope this lawsuit will  send two clear messages: For employers,  train your supervisors to prevent discrimination and be sure that your written  policy is taken seriously. For workers,  particularly immigrants and newcomers who may not be as familiar with their  rights, we hope this case will encourage people to stand up for their rights  and to report discrimination.”

According to the company website,,  the privately-held Panda Restaurant Group has headquarters in Rosemead, Calif.,  and employs over 18,000 workers companywide at 1,200 locations in 36 states,  under the brands Panda Express, Panda Inn and Hibachi-San.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website  at