Overview: A white supervisor instructed a female hiring manager to interview only Caucasian applicants for open job positions. When the hiring manager complained, she was told that upper management wanted its staffers to look like its mostly white customer base.
The scenario: A white hiring manager, Vanessa Burrous, was stuck between a rock and a hard place while employed at Whataburger Restaurants, Tallahassee, FL, after her white supervisor, Johanna Risk, pressured her to interview only white candidates, not black ones, for open positions.
Risk instructed Burrous to review the names on job applications to identify ones that sounded like the candidate was white, and to interview only them.
Burrous was uncomfortable with the directive, so she ignored it. Instead, she hired the most-qualified candidates.
In fact, Burrous brought in eight staffers, seven of whom were black. Risk reprimanded Burrous for defying her orders.
When Burrous investigated the matter a little further, she discovered that Risk was actually just following the orders she’d been given by upper management.
The top dogs didn’t want to bring in black workers because they thought it would be better for their employees to mirror their customer base, which was primarily white.
Burrous continued to complain about the discriminatory hiring practices, and she was warned that she’d be fired if she kept whining. She resigned her position instead.
Legal challenge: Burrous went to the EEOC, which sued for retaliation. The EEOC argued that the employer punished Burrous for opposing illegal race discrimination.
The ruling: The employer lost. Whataburger Restaurants agreed to pay $180,000 in order to settle the lawsuit.
Based on EEOC v. Whataburger Restaurants, LLC.
(From the Aug. 28, 2020, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To download the current issue of the publication right now, please click here.)