Lawler Foods, a commercial bakery in Houston, has agreed to pay $1 million to settle accusations of discrimination against prospective employees who were not Hispanic.
According to a lawsuit filed in 2014 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Lawler Foods told black applicants that it would not hire “people like them,” and told at least one white applicant that because he was not Hispanic, he would not be hired.
The EEOC launched an investigation into Lawler Foods’ hiring practices after three African American applicants filed discrimination lawsuits against the bakery, and subsequently found that other applicants had experienced bias during the hiring process.
Instead, the bakery reportedly favored Spanish workers — relying on Hispanic workers to recruit potential employees as well as advertising for Spanish speakers — and even told non-Spanish-speaking applicants that there were no job openings, yet these applicants saw Spanish speakers enter interview rooms.
According to an attorney for the EEOC, the bakery even went so far as to discourage black and white applicants from applying in the first place. “They told them they had to work 14 hours a day in temperatures of minus 10 degrees to over 110 degrees and pushing sacks up to 110 pounds,” said attorney Jim Sacher. Based on population estimates of the area, approximately 30 percent of the bakery’s employees should be black — but out of 500 employees, less than one percent is black.
Though Lawler Foods maintain that it “fully supports equal opportunities for all employees,” the bakery has settled for $1 million, which will be used to compensate the three people who originally sued Lawler Foods in 2009, and other applicants who unsuccessfully applied for jobs between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2015. According to the EEOC, at least 200 people were turned down between 2009 and 2010 alone.