Considering that food is one of the single most unifying forces in the world, it’s always disheartening to see the forces of ignorance and prejudice find their way into restaurants. Yet they do, far too often.
The Kansas City Star reports on a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas by a former Buffalo Wild Wings employee who alleges that from late 2016 until his unjust termination in October 2017, he was subjected to racial discrimination and unequal working conditions by management at the Overland Park, Kansas location, in addition to witnessing management’s encouragement of racist behavior by staff.
The Star’s reportage on the lawsuit outlines what Gary Lovelace, a 55-year-old black man who worked as a cook at the location for 12 years, describes as a pattern of behavior on the part of both management and staff, including claims that employees “refused to serve black customers because, they said, ‘blacks don’t give good tips.’”
The lawsuit further alleges that Lovelace was specifically targeted at numerous points by management:
In addition to witnessing management’s derogatory comments about African American customers, Lovelace said, he was consistently subjected to racial comments that were dismissed as jokes despite his complaints.
In one instance, an assistant general manager introduced Lovelace to another employee as the “angry black man.” Lovelace does not believe the manager was disciplined after he reported the incident, according to the suit.
Lovelace further claims he was targeted because of his age and disability, as his manager became angry when he asked to take breaks from working in the freezer due to his asthma; the same manager criticized Lovelace for being old if it took him time to finish a certain job. Lovelace says he was denied pay raises and promotions, and was given undesirable shifts despite his seniority at the restaurant.
The lawsuit states that the hostilities continued until October 2017, when Lovelace was fired for arriving late to work, after reporting his various concerns to management on multiple occasions. Lovelace’s allegations are disturbing, and will be evaluated in federal court in the coming months.
Buffalo Wild Wings acknowledged the lawsuit in a statement to the Star, but declined to comment on pending litigation: “Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and we have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”