OLEAN, N.Y. (WIVB) — A pizza franchise in Olean allegedly violated federal law when it permitted race-based harassment of Black employees by managers and co-workers, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Thursday.
Charges from the EEOC alleged that, beginning in at least 2019, a Domino’s Pizza franchise then operated by Parris Pizza Company, LLC subjected its Black employees, including Andrew Ross and others, to a race-based hostile work environment. The mistreatment included two managers’ regular and open use of slurs such as the N-word and “boy” during shifts.
Among other incidents, it is alleged one of the managers mimicked the voice of a slave owner and called Ross “boy” while the other manager stood by and laughed.
According to the EEOC, Black employees, including Ross, complained about the harassment but were met only with further harassment and intimidation.
Upon overhearing a Black employee tell a white co-worker not to use the N-word, a manager allegedly got close to the Black employee’s face and threateningly said the N-word. It is further alleged that when Ross complained to the owner of the location, one of the managers threatened Ross with a pair of scissors.
The EEOC alleges the franchise took no disciplinary action against the harassers. Instead, they say one manager was promoted and the other received an increase in pay.
Ross was compelled to resign from the Domino’s location due to the harassment he allegedly experienced and the alleged lack of protection he received from the restaurant’s higher-ups.
The EEOC is seeking back pay, reinstatement, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief through the lawsuit.
“Racial harassment in the workplace is a crucial issue, all the more pressing in the wake of the horrific, racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo less than a year ago,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, in a release. “This lawsuit sends a clear message that racial harassment of employees will not be tolerated.”
“Every employee has a right under federal law to a workplace free of racial slurs. Employers cannot ignore this type of behavior but rather must take steps to stop it. When they fail to do so, the EEOC will step in,” added Timothy Riera, EEOC New York Acting District Director.
Domino’s provided News 4 with the following statement on the complaint:
“The allegations in the complaint filed against one of our former franchise owners, if true, are deeply disturbing. While each franchised store is independently owned and operated, racism has no place in the Domino’s system.”Domino’s Pizza statement
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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.