Whataburger will pay $180,000 to settle a suit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over claims the general manager of a Florida outlet repeatedly told an underling to “hire white, and not black, applicants."
When the employee complained, she was told upper management wanted the workforce at the Tallahassee store to "reflect the customer base where we do business," the suit alleges. The employee resigned after physical and verbal abuse, threats and changes to her work schedule, according to the EEOC.
San Antonio-based Whataburger denied the allegations, adding that it's committed to a diverse workforce. In the time covered under the suit, 93% of new hires were at the Tallahassee restaurant were African American, officials said.
"Despite having all of these proactive HR measures already in place, Whataburger decided to settle this protracted and exhausting legal matter purely as a business decision," the company said in an email. "The brand needed to focus its resources on our employees, customers and the communities we serve."
In addition to a $180,000 payout, Whataburger agreed to a three-year consent decree requiring it to adopt new training and policies and maintain an anonymous complaint hotline. The chain said it already has in place most of what the decree requires.
"In this lawsuit, an employee risked her own livelihood to take a stand against race discrimination," Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District, said in a written statement. "We are pleased that Whataburger is compensating her and making positive changes to its workplace."
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