San Antonio-based Whataburger is fighting some serious allegations.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the burger chain, alleging it broke the law by retaliating against an employee who claims that management told her to hire only white applicants.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a potential employee or current employee based on factors including skin color or ethnicity.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC claims that Whataburger general and area managers demanded that a white restaurant manager in Tallahassee, Florida hire only white applicants because Whataburger wanted "the faces behind the counter to match the customer base."
The suit alleges that the restaurant manager was told to review the names on applications, identify the names that sounded white, and interview only those applicants.
When the manager objected and refused, the EEOC says that she was subjected to an ongoing pattern of retaliatory conduct including verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, a drastic change in schedule, and unwarranted discipline.
The employee eventually resigned.
KENS 5 requested an interview with a Whataburger spokesperson, but only received the following written statement:
Based on our thorough internal investigation, we deny the allegations. We did not retaliate against this employee nor did we ask her to use the alleged discriminatory hiring practices. We value diversity on our teams and proudly employ family members of all races. Approximately 75% of our workforce identifies as non-white.
A spokesperson with the EEOC told KENS 5 that, due to confidentiality rules, the agency is unable say if similar complaints have been filed in San Antonio or at other Whataburger locations.
The EEOC spokesperson confirmed that this is the first time the agency has filed a lawsuit against the San Antonio-based chain.