According to a press release made Monday, The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Whataburger in federal court in regards to facts surrounding the hiring practices of a Tallahassee, Florida based location.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that Vanessa Burrous, a manager at the Tallahassee location, was retaliated against for her refusal to follow directives from her general manager, Johanna Risk, to only interview and subsequently hire applicants whose names “sounded white.” As evidence of her refusal, Burrous hired eight candidates for open vacancies, seven of whom were black. Burrous alleged that Risk would “repeatedly reprimand” her for not following Risk’s discriminatory hiring practices.
The complaint goes on to state that Burrous spoke to another general manager about a transfer, who then referred Burrous to regional manager Misa Levin. Levin met with Burrous and Risk about Burrous’ grievances, and during this meeting, Risk openly admitted that the hiring directive did not come from herself, but from “pressure from upper management.” The complaint then alleges that Levin told Burrous that “Whataburger’s ‘customer base is white and we want the faces behind the counter to match the customer base,'” and that if Burrous complained any further, that she would “not be protecting the brand.” After an indeterminate amount of time where Burrous was subject to retaliation by Risk including verbal abuse, significantly increased workload, and even ordering Burrous to work on her days off without pay, Burrous subsequently resigned.
The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction enjoining Whataburger of any retaliation against employees who do not wish to participate in discriminatory practices, a court order for Whataburger to implement anti-discriminatory practices and policies, damages including lost wages, EEOC penalties, and punitive to be awarded to Burrous, as well as attorneys fees.
Whataburger has not issued a statement regarding the matter.
Here is the EEOCs complaint in full: