The ten Sweetgreen employees claim they were regularly called the “n-word,” along with other racial slurs, by Hispanic workers and managers.
A group of Sweetgreen employees have filed a lawsuit against the popular salad chain, claiming that they were subjected to intense racial discrimination at seven of the restaurant’s New York City locations.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week in a New York Supreme Court in the Bronx.
In it, the ten plaintiffs claim that their co-workers and managers regularly used the “n-word,” along with other racial slurs and epithets.
The lawsuit also suggests that managers failed to either hire or promote qualified black employees, instead giving “preferential treatment” to their “Hispanic” counterparts.
Attorneys for the workers say that managers justified their conduct by saying that Hispanic people generally work harder than African-Americans.
“Hispanic employees would also, on a daily basis, refer to Black employees in a derogatory way as “negro” or “Negra” rather than using the Black employee’s name,” the complaint says. “For example, they would say, in Spanish, “Tell eso negro [i.e., this black man] to hurry up.” By way of another example, they would say, in Spanish, “That Black girl doesn’t know what she’s doing.””
“By way of further example, if there was a task to perform they would say to each other, in Spanish, “Give it to the Black guy,”” it adds.
“Also, during that time, Hispanic employes would regularly refer to Black employees as “monkeys,’” the complaint says.
Attorneys for the Sweetgreen employees say that this alleged misconduct was common among both hourly employees and managers.
“For too many Black employees, having to listen to managers and co-workers use racial slurs is just a part of their daily work environment. That’s both wrong and illegal,” said attorney Avi Mermelstein.
“Being exposed to constant harassment creates a hostile and psychologically unsafe work environment and companies simply must do better to protect their employees,” said Mermelstein, a partner at Arenson Dittmar & Karban.
While the plaintiffs say that they reported the alleged racial discrimination to Sweetgreen’s upper-level management, including its human resources department, the company never took action, ignoring the complaints for years.
Aside from racial discrimination, the complaint also states that New York City managers regularly harassed female employees, making sexual comments and sometimes touching them “inappropriately.”
Sweetgreen has since said that it is “committed” to fostering a safe and diverse work environment.
“At Sweetgreen, we are committed to diversity as well as a safe and inclusive workplace,” the company said in a statement to CNBC. “We take these accusations seriously and do not tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions.”