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Verdicts & Settlements

Whataburger Settles Lawsuit Claiming Florida Location Had Whites-Only Hiring Policy

— May 2, 2020

Despite its settlement, Whataburger continues to maintain it did nothing wrong.

Whataburger will pay $180,000 to settle allegations that one of its Florida branches had a whites-only hiring policy.

KXAN reports that the lawsuit was sparked by a tip-off provided by a general manager at Whataburger’s Tallahassee location submitted a hiring discrimination complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In her complaint, the site’s manager recalled how she’d been instructed by her hiring supervisor to only approve white applicants.

The hiring supervisor’s logic was that the ethnic composition of Whataburger’s staff should “reflect the customer base where we do business.”

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

However, Whataburger’s general manager refused to implement a discriminatory hiring policy. She claims that, in retaliation, she was physically and verbally abused, threatened, and subjected to unwanted schedule changes and assignment transfers. Unable to cope with the scope of intimidation, the manager resigned.

Upon learning of the alleged abuse, the EEOC sued Whataburger for retaliatory harassment and constructive discharge—charges Whataburger steadfastly denied when the suit was first filed in 2017.

“We did not retaliate against this employee nor did we ask her to use the alleged discriminatory hiring practices,” Whataburger told Fox News at the time. “We value diversity on our teams and proudly employ Family Members of all races. Approximately 75 percent of our workforce identifies as non-white.”

Whataburger, though, has since settled. As part of its agreement with the EEOC, it’ll pay the commission $180,000 in fines, reset its human resources guidelines, and conduct additional trainings.

Whataburger will also be required to maintain an anonymous hotline through which employees can report suspected discrimination in hiring or practice.

To ensure employees and the public are aware of the settlement, Whataburger is required to post notice of the settlement at affected locations; any new retaliation complaints must be reported to the EEOC.

“In this lawsuit, an employee risked her own livelihood to take a stand against race discrimination,” said Robert Weisburg, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District. “We are pleased that Whataburger is compensating her and making positive changes to its workplace.”

No matter the outcome, Whataburger has continued to deny any wrongdoing. In a statement provided to the Miami Herald, the company said it opted to settle the “protracted and exhausting legal matter purely as a business decision.” Furthermore, Whataburger said the general manager’s allegations of hiring discrimination are “false, disappointing, and completely counter to the culture Whataburger lives and breathes every day.”

Whataburger also repeated its diversity profile, noting that not only are 81% of its hires in the Tallahassee area non-white, but that 93% of hires at the location named in the lawsuit are African-American.

“Whataburger agreed to the terms of the Consent Decree in this case—in large part—because Whataburger already has in place most of what the Consent Decree requires,” the company said in an e-mail to the Herald. “Among other requirements, and contrary to the Commission’s interference in its press release, Whataburger has for years maintained an anonymous hotline for employees to report concerns about their work environment, including potential discrimination, harassment or retaliation.”

Racism also abounds online – a “place” where there are few censors and many opportunities to hurt others. Join us in working to change this culture of division.


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