Eugene Gates Jr. had worked as a meat slicer in a Charlotte grocery store for nearly 40 years when it was purchased by Compare Foods, of Freeport, N.Y. Shortly after the buyout, the company cut his hours in half and gave his shifts to a young Hispanic worker, telling Gates the company needed someone who could better relate to the store’s customers.
Gates said he felt forced to resign his position as assistant meat department manager. A month later, two other workers in the department were fired. The three former workers sued for race and national origin discrimination.
Compare Foods settled the lawsuit for $40,000 but maintained the workers were treated fairly. Company attorney Phil Van Hoy argued that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a business can require employees to have certain qualifications if they’re proven necessary.
If you have a Hispanic customer base, Van Hoy said, it’s legal “to have enough of your employees who can communicate with them.”
A tough sell, and one the EEOC evidently didn’t buy.
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