A Mexican-themed restaurant chain has been sued over charges that it failed to stop the “regular and open use of racial slurs” against an African-American chef at its Holtsville location, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday.
Management at the local On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, owned by an Irving, Texas-based chain, which is known as On the Border Acquisitions LLC, failed to do anything to stop the behavior against ex-employee Michael Carrethers, according to the suit, which was filed Wednesday at U.S. District Court in Central Islip. The chain also has a location in Hicksville.
David Shankman, a lawyer for the company, disputed the allegation.
“We are an equal opportunity employer and proud of the diversity in our workforce,” he said. “Any allegations to the contrary will be defended vigorously.”
Carrethers began working at On the Border in 2012. About six months later, in March 2013, a co-worker began calling Carrethers “black bean,” according to the complaint. He asked him to stop, but he wouldn’t, the complaint said, and other employees joined in. In 2015 workers started calling him by the N-word, sometimes in the presence of the restaurant’s manager, the complaint said.
“It is indefensible for this sort of language to be used so freely and repeatedly in the workplace,” said Charles F. Coleman Jr., EEOC lead trial attorney on the case.
Carrethers left the restaurant in June 2015 and filed with the EEOC in late 2015. In June the agency said it found “probable cause” that the charges were true. On Wednesday it said pre-litigation talks didn’t produce a settlement.
By taking the case, the EEOC signals how serious it believes the charges are because it represents few plaintiffs. The agency seeks lost compensation for Carrethers and punitive damages.