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Press Release 04-27-2020

Whataburger to Pay $180,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Suit

Employee Complained About Policy to Hire Only White Applicants, Federal Agency Charges

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Whataburger Restaurants LLC, a giant fast food chain, has agreed to pay $180,000 and furnish other relief to settle a retaliatory harassment and constructive discharge lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, a general manager of a Whataburger location in Tallahassee repeatedly instructed her hiring manager to hire white, and not black, applicants for employment. When the manager complained, she was told that upper management wanted the teams to “reflect the customer base where we do business.” The manager was then subjected to physical and verbal abuse, threats, a schedule change, and additional work assignments, which ultimately forced her to resign.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits emp­loyers from retaliating against employees who report or oppose workplace race discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division (EEOC v. Whataburger Restaurants LLC, Case No. 4:17-cv-00428-WS-MAF), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation pro­cess. 

In addition to $180,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree requires Whataburger to adopt new human resources policies, conduct live and computer-based training, and maintain an anony­mous hotline for complaints. Whataburger must also post a notice at its worksite about the lawsuit and report any new complaints of retaliation to EEOC.

“In this lawsuit, an employee risked her own livelihood to take a stand against race discrim­ination.” said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District. “We are pleased that Whataburger is compensating her and making positive changes to its workplace.”

Oshia Gainer Banks, the EEOC trial attorney who litigated the case, said, “Federal laws give workers the right to earn a living without being forced to engage in the unlawful conduct described in this lawsuit. The EEOC will oppose retaliation against those courageous workers who come forward to report unlawful discrimination.”

Michael Farrell, director of the EEOC’s Miami District, added, “Employees must not be forced to make a choice between standing up against illegal discrimination and being forced out of their job. We are optimistic that the changes brought about by this lawsuit will prevent future discrimination and retaliation at Whataburger.”

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.