A company that operates Panera Bread stores in Florida faces an additional lawsuit charging racial discrimination in the wake of a manager’s suit that claims he was fired for refusing to follow a racist directive from the store’s owner.
Late last year, Scott Donatelli, who managed a Panera store in Pennsylvania, sued franchise owner Sam Covelli, claiming his firing was retaliation. Covelli’s company owns 33 Panera franchises in Central Florida, in addition to stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Donatelli’s suit alleges a district manager told him not to station black men at the store’s cash registers, replacing them with “pretty young girls.” He says the manager told him, “It’s what the owner wants and it’s what the customers want.”
Now Guy Vines—one of the black workers Donatelli was allegedly forced to move to the back of the store—has filed his own lawsuit. Donatelli described Vines as a model employee who often worked extra shifts and changed his schedule without complaint. Vines claims he was “constructively discharged” due to ongoing discrimination. The same lawyer represents both Donatelli and Vines.
Covelli claims the suits are baseless and simply “a coordinated attempt by two disgruntled former employees to discredit the company for a profit motive.”
The EEOC will investigate the complaints and attempt to get the parties to resolve them through its conciliation process. If that fails, the former employees will be free to take their lawsuits to federal court.