Little Caesars is being sued by a former employee who claims he was exposed to racial discrimination by his Hispanic co-workers, his managers overlooked it, and he faced retaliation, including termination, when he sought redress.
Dionte Lawrence, an African-American male, worked as a crew member in a Little Caesar store in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago, according to the complaint. He claims he “performed his job in a manner that met or exceeded the expectations of his employer.”
In September 2015, a few months after being hired, Lawrence asked a co-manager “why he and all the black crew member employees were placed in the back of the store while the Hispanic employees were placed in the front of the store to interact with customers and operate the cash registers.” He was later told he was a good worker but was complaining too much and to just do his job.
After contacting human resources (HR) about his concern, he was told “we don’t mean to be racist, but this is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.”
Soon thereafter, Lawrence was placed in the front of the store. He was met with co-workers who harassed him by calling him a “negro” and a “slave.”
In December 2015 Lawrence pointed out to the assistant managers the fact that the dress code was only enforced against black employees. While Hispanic employees were given a number of different shirts to wear, were allowed to keep those shirts untucked under their aprons, and were allowed to wear watches and jewelry, black employees were only given one t-shirt, which had to be tucked in, and were prohibited from wearing jewelry and watches.
Lawrence claims the racial harassment by co-workers then escalated. He received racially charged verbal abuse. According to the lawsuit, his complaint to HR received no response.
In May 2016 Lawrence claims an assistant manager joined in the harassment. After contacting the local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office to schedule an appointment, he was given a write-up and sent home by his assistant managers, who never sent the write-up to HR.
Lawrence contacted HR four more times to complain about the racism, discrimination, and retaliation he was facing. HR did not respond to any of his contacts. Instead the harassment escalated to the point where Lawrence was attacked by co-workers in mid November 2016 where they called him a “nigger,” pulled his hair, and threatened to shoot him, according to the suit.
No corrective measures were taken and a month later Lawrence claims he was physically assaulted by a co-worker who kicked him in the head and broke his nose. Lawrence was suspended and then terminated on January 11, 2017.
Lawrence was discharged “because he was black and because he had complained about the racial harassment he had suffered at the hands of his co-workers and supervisors and racial discrimination that his supervisors oversaw,” according to the complaint.
Lawrence is represented by Edward Moor of Chicago who filed the suit in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
Image Source: Michael Gray (Flickr)