While workplace discrimination based on race and other protected characteristics is prohibited under both state and federal law, it continues to occur in companies in California and across the U.S. Three Black, former employees of Kraft Heinz filed a $30 million lawsuit against the food giant for the racist abuse they reportedly suffered while working at a plant in Tulare, California.
Allegations of racial discrimination at Kraft Heinz
The three men were employed by Kraft Heinz from 2012 and 2018. During that period, they say they experienced ongoing incidents of racial discrimination. The men alleged that co-workers regularly used racial slurs in conversation, drew swastikas on Black employees’ lockers, and left threatening notes in their lockers. A note left in one of the plaintiffs’ lockers reportedly read, “Quit or die, N-.” The ongoing abuse was so pervasive and severe that it created a hostile working environment for the Black employees. One of the plaintiffs quit because of the environment, and the other two took medical leaves of absence.
Inadequate and improper response by Kraft Heinz
The men repeatedly complained about the racist abuse to their supervisors. The supervisors reportedly told them to keep their heads down and threatened them with termination. One manager said that the corporate office instructed them not to act on the racial discrimination complaints because it might cause other employees to become disgruntled. The men allege that they were retaliated against for complaining about racial discrimination and were passed over for promotions, transferred to undesirable night shifts, and placed under the supervision of managers who encouraged the racist culture in the workplace.
Kraft Heinz claims that it investigated the men’s claims as soon as the company received them in 2018. The company also denies that any racist incidents occurred since that time and says that the company takes these types of incidents seriously.
Employees who suffer from a hostile work environment despite appealing to their supervisors or managers may have no recourse but to file a lawsuit. A successful suit might result in the company paying damages and being required to amend its policies.