TALLAHASSEE, FL – What-A-Burger, the famous southern burger chain, is currently facing a lawsuit alleging that it encouraged a store manager to discriminate against certain applicants on the basis of their race. Discriminating in hiring policies is a gross violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the bases of any federally protected categories, in this instance, race.

Vanessa Burrous, a former manager at a Tallahassee What-A-Burger location, was pressured by her superiors to hire white employees. Her superiors went to as far as to instruct Burrous to “review the names of the applicants, identify those names that sounded white, and interview only those applicants.” Burrous refused to participate in the racially discriminatory hiring policies and decided she would only hire the best applicants. Out of the 8 applicants she hired, 7 were black.

As a result of Burrous’ stance against discriminatory employment policies, her supervisors repeatedly reprimanded her. Burrous attempted to speak with as many people in the chain of command as possible, starting with her area manager. When Burrous spoke with the area manager, she was told that the directive had come due to pressure from “upper management.” Burrous was told that What-A-Burger’s customer base was white, and they wanted to have faces behind the counter that match the customer base. Burrous refused to participate in the hiring practices and was constructively discharged as a result.

Constructive discharge is a legal doctrine which means that the employer made the work environment so intolerable that a reasonable person would not be able to stay. Here, because of What-A- Burgers discriminatory hiring policies, and the subsequent retaliation that Burrous faced as a result of her opposition to the discriminatory hiring practices, Burrous was forced to resign, or constructively discharged.

Burrous has filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC was created by Title VII as the administrative agency tasked with handling claims of employment discrimination. Before filing a lawsuit in federal court, the employee must first file their complaint with the EEOC. Once an employee files a complaint with the EEOC, the EEOC issues one of three determinations: no probable cause; right-to-sue; or, a letter stating that the EEOC will be picking up the employees claim.  If the EEOC issues the employee a “right to sue” letter, then that employee may pursue their+ claims in federal court. The EEOC has picked up Burrous’ claim and is pursuing her claim in federal court. The EEOC is demanding What-A- Burger pay punitive damages as a result of their malicious and reckless, racially discriminating conduct.

The sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC have years of experience litigating claims of racial discrimination in the hiring process. Working with our Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys, we have recovered millions on behalf of our clients who were discriminated against on the basis of their race. If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace, please give our attorneys a call at 800-807-2209 for your free consultation.