Former employees of Kraft Heinz allege they faced racial slurs and death threats.
Three former Black employees of Kraft Heinz, who allegedly faced racist abuse and threats, have filed a $30 million racial discrimination lawsuit against the company. Sanford Heisler Sharp filed the suit on behalf of Alex Horn, Lance Aytman, and Keith Hooker in the Eastern District of California. The lawsuit alleges Kraft Heinz violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. It also alleges Kraft Heinz violated the Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976 and the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act.
The complaint indicates the men were “subjected to a pattern of harassing and discriminatory behavior based upon their race over the course of several years along with other Black employees who worked with them at a dairy facility run by Kraft Heinz Foods.” The plaintiffs claim managers told them to ‘keep their heads down or else they could join the unemployment line” when they reported the discrimination. Staff, the suit alleges, “called the employees racist slurs and drew the N-word and Swastikas on their lockers.”
In general, the racial discrimination lawsuit says, “Kraft Heinz’s dairy plant in Tulare, California, was rife with anti-Black slurs, innuendos, threats, and discrimination.” And yet supervisors responded to these racist slurs with “apathy and inaction.”
When the employees asked for promotions, they were denied, and they were given “less than desirable work tasks.” One of the plaintiffs was “placed on nightshifts and was forced to operate defunct machines by supervisors with a history of contributing to the anti-Black work environment,” the lawsuit said. This not only placed him in a hostile, but dangerous, situation.
All three of the plaintiffs say they received death threats, and, according to the suit, a manager told Horn that “Kraft Heinz’s corporate office had instructed management at the dairy plant not to investigate the death threats found in lockers in case it disgruntled other employees.” As a result of the death threats, Hooker resigned, and Horn and Aytman took medical leaves of absence for fear of their lives.
A Kraft Heinz spokesperson said, “For context, the claims filed within the complaint date back to incidents that are several years old, with the last being in 2018, so to frame this as a current, ongoing or rampant issue is inaccurate.” They added, “And as soon as we were made aware, we undertook an extensive investigation, including cooperating with law enforcement, to ensure that any behavior that violated our policies, if uncovered, was put to an end.”
The spokesperson continued, “Kraft Heinz prides itself on creating diverse and inclusive workplaces, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment of any kind. Whenever a serious allegation such as this is made, we take immediate and swift action, including conducting a thorough investigation and implementing corrective actions if behaviors contradictory to our values are found.”