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EEOC Sues Marvin’s Fresh Farmhouse, Inc. For Racial Harassment, Race Discrimination, And Retaliation

Restaurant Discriminated Against African-American Employee Due to Race And Discharged White Employee For Associating With Him, Federal Agency Alleges

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Marvin’s Fresh Farmhouse, Inc., a family-owned restaurant located in Mt. Pleasant, N.C., violated federal law by subjecting Darick Alsbrooks, an African-American employee, to racial harassment and demoting him because of his race, and then discharging him for filing a charge of discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The lawsuit also alleges that Marvin’s Fresh discharged a white employee, Michelle Johnson, because of her association with Alsbrooks. Finally, the EEOC claims that Marvin’s Fresh violated federal law by failing to post or display information regarding federal anti-discrimination laws as required by Title VII.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from mid-August 2009 until around December 4, 2009, Darick Alsbrooks, who initially worked as a cook for Marvin’s Fresh, was subjected to unwelcome derogatory remarks by the male co-owner of Marvin’s Fresh and by some of the customers who frequented the restaurant. According to the EEOC, some of the customers who made racial remarks about Alsbrooks were personal acquaintances of the male co-owner. The derogatory remarks were made to and about Alsbrooks on an almost daily basis, and included the repeated use of the N-word which was sometimes coupled with profanity.

The EEOC claims that the male co-owner was fully aware of the racial harassment by his customers but did not stop it. The EEOC’s complaint further alleges that Alsbrooks was demoted from his cook position to a dishwasher position because of his race and that he was ultimately fired in early December 2009 because he filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

The EEOC’s complaint further alleges that Michelle Johnson, who was a server at Marvin’s Fresh and who is white, witnessed a customer make racial comments about Alsbrooks. When the same customer asked Johnson out, Johnson responded no, to which the customer responded by calling Johnson a N–lover because of her association with Alsbrooks. The customer also promised to get her fired from her position. Ultimately, Johnson was discharged by Marvin’s Fresh because of her association with Alsbrooks.

“Certain customers constantly called Mr. Alsbrooks racially derogatory names in front of his co-workers and other customers,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “This type of conduct has no place in America’s workplaces. Employers must prevent harassment of their employees by customers and others, and they may not retaliate against any employee who complains of discriminatory treatment.

“Employers must also remember that Title VII prohibits an employee from being discriminated against because of his or her association with an employee of another race,” Barnes added. “In this case, the EEOC alleges that Ms. Johnson – who is white - was discharged because of her association with Mr. Alsbrooks – who is African American. Such conduct by an employer is unlawful.”

Racial harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District for the Western District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Marvin’s Fresh Farmhouse, Inc., Civil Action No.3:10-CV-471), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency seeks back pay, past and future pecuniary losses, past and future non-pecuniary losses, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Alsbrooks and Johnson, as well as injunctive relief.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at