Settlement at The Bottom Of The Barrel

On Thursday Sept. 9, the Tennessee based Cracker Barrelrestaurant chain agreed to a settlement of $8.7 million in sevenracial discrimination lawsuits filed by the NAACP Legal Defenseteam in 2001 on behalf of 100 employee and patron plaintiffs.

According to the Associated Press, the suitswere all either brought or supported by the rights organization andinvolved claims of discrimination against Blacks customers andemployees.

These discriminatory practices included poorservice to Black clients: the serving of food taken from the trash,segregation into the smoking section, use of racial slurs; andrelegation of Black workers to work in the kitchen only. Cracker Barrel president and chief operating officer, Donald Turnerwas quoted as saying, “This matter has been resolved to everyone’ssatisfaction and the parties are now ready to move forward.”

In May 2004, Cracker Barrel and the UnitedStates Department of Justice entered into an anti-discriminationagreement, entailing Cracker Barrel undertaking a five-yearcomprehensive system to address discrimination, more training ofmanagers, and the hiring of an independent auditor.  As statedin a May 2004 NAACP press release, when Cracker Barrel committed toentering into the agreement with the Department of Justice, it waswelcomed by the organization’s president Kwesi Mfume but”the next step is for the restaurant chain to providecompensation for past discrimination victims.”

He then said that the agreement marked”the beginning, not the end, of the consequences to CrackerBarrel for its long pattern of discrimination againstAfrican-Americans…Cracker Barrel’s failure to yetprovide compensation to a single victim of its multi-year patternof discrimination is a tragic reminder that the guarantees of theCivil Rights Act of 1964 may still be systemically and deliberatelyignored.”

This is by no means the first incidence of adiscrimination suit against a corporation.

In recent years, many discrimination suitshave been brought by Black plaintiffs against the South Carolinabased, Advantica Restaurant Group Inc., which operates about 1,600Denny’s restaurants throughout the United States. 

Patrons claimed denial of service because ofrace (some were even asked to prepay before they wereserviced).  Employee claims included prejudiced activities onbehalf of other employees and management.  Over the years,Denny’s has offered compensation through diversity training andsettlements totaling over $54 million.  Since then,Denny’s CEO James Adamson has won the NAACP CEO of the yearaward.  Maybe Cracker Barrel will make a similar change.