Bakery’s Word-of-Mouth Hiring and Ads Stating a Preference for Spanish Speakers Also Discriminatory, Federal Agency Says
HOUSTON – Lawler Foods, Inc. and Lawler Foods, Ltd., a Houston-area production bakery, violated federal law by engaging in a pattern or practice of failing to hire black and non-Hispanic applicants for entry-level positions in its facility, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed December 16, 2014.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Lawler Foods has been discriminating in its hiring since at least 2007. The EEOC’s suit alleges that African-American and non-Hispanic applicants have been told that they would not be hired because they were not Hispanic or could not speak Spanish. Some non-Hispanic applicants were treated rudely and waited to be interviewed to no avail, while Hispanic applicants were interviewed. Evidence also showed that non-Hispanic applicants generally had more relevant working experience and education than the Hispanic applicants Lawler hired. The lawsuit also alleges that Lawler Foods relied on word-of-mouth hiring and advertised a preference for Spanish-speaking applicants, practices that the EEOC alleges had a discriminatory impact on black and non-Hispanic applicants. The EEOC’s administrative investigation culminated in findings of class-wide hiring discrimination based on statistical and anecdotal evidence.
Lawler Foods’ alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits intentional discrimination based on race and national origin, and also prohibits using employment practices that have a disparate impact on based on race or national origin. The EEOC filed suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (Civil Action No. 4:14-cv-03588), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting Lawler Foods from engaging in race and national origin discrimination. The suit also seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the discrimination victims and other relief, including implementing fair recruitment and hiring procedures, and rightful-place hiring of mistreated job applicants.
“Using an employment practice that has the effect of excluding people on the basis of race or national origin is unlawful under the laws we enforce,” said Martin Ebel, acting director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office.
EEOC Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher added, “Assuring fair access to job opportunities continues to be a high priority for the EEOC’s litigation program. We stand for fair hiring, and will fight any practice that discriminates against any race or national origin, regardless of who benefits.”
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
Individuals who believe they may have been denied a position at Lawler Foods because of their race or national origin or who have any information that would be helpful to the EEOC’s suit against the company should contact the EEOC at (713) 651-4970.
According to its website, www.lawlers.com, Lawler Foods produces desserts for businesses in the United States, Mexico, Canada and Europe.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.
The EEOC’s Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Total Building at 1201 Louisiana Avenue in Houston.