Monday, January 28, 2008

5045: Revenge Is A Dish At Cracker Barrel…?

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Retaliation lawsuits under fire
RACE | Court may disallow claims under 1866 Civil Rights statute


Four and a half years ago Matteson resident Hedrick Humphries sued Cracker Barrel restaurant, alleging he was fired from the company’s Bradley site in retaliation for complaints he made about race discrimination.

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the race discrimination case to decide whether retaliation claims can continue to be brought under one of the country’s oldest federal civil rights laws -- statute 1981 under the 1866 Civil Rights Act.

If the Court disallows retaliation lawsuits, damages would be reduced to victims of racial discrimination, and others would be left without any recourse, contends Humphries’ attorney, Cynthia Hyndman and other civil rights experts.

“Broad protections would be taken away for people who are victims of racial discrimination and retaliation,” Hyndman said.

But Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores argues the statute doesn’t contain specific provisions prohibiting retaliation, so such claims, which have been made under the law for many years, shouldn’t be allowed.

“The case before the Supreme Court seeks clarity in the laws that provide equal protection against retaliation for both employees and employers,” Cracker Barrel said in a released statement.

Humphries, who had worked as an associate manager at Cracker Barrel for nearly three years, alleged he was fired after complaining that an acting general manager at the store was making racist remarks, including saying that a black cook at the restaurant “must be drunk or drugged” because that’s “how they all are.” He also alleged his firing came after he reported to management he was the victim of racially motivated discipline, and complained that the firing of another employee was racially motivated.

Cracker Barrel has denied wrongdoing in the case.

[Read the full story here.]

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