Feds al­lege racial harass­ment at Lan­caster’s BBQ

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY JOE MARUSAK

jmarusak@char­lot­teob­server.com

A white worker at a North Carolina bar­be­cue joint threw hot sauce on an African-Amer­i­can co-worker and re­peat­edly called her the “N-word,” the fed­eral Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion said in a news re­lease and law­suit.

The EEOC filed the law­suit in fed­eral court in Statesville this week against Joe’s Old Fash­ioned Bar-BQue Inc., the cor­po­rate en­tity for Lan­caster’s BBQ & Wings, ac­cord­ing to the EEOC’s news re­lease.

The long­time NASCARthemed Mooresville bar­be­cue restau­rant “vi­o­lated fed­eral law when it sub­jected a black em­ployee to a racially hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment,” the EEOC said in Wed­nes­day’s news re­lease.

Ac­cord­ing to the EEOC’s news re­lease, a white co­worker “re­peat­edly made of­fen­sive racist state­ments” to Shana Knox, “in­clud­ing use of the N-word and racial jokes about blacks. Although Knox com­plained to man­age­ment, the harass­ment con­tin­ued.”

In re­sponse to a re­quest for com­ment from the Ob­server, Lan­caster’s at­tor­ney, Shel Robin­son of Char­lotte, said in a state­ment Thurs­day that “Lan­caster’s BBQ has al­ways wel­comed cus­tomers and re­cruited em­ploy­ees of all races, sexes and back­grounds. Lan­caster’s has not seen the al­le­ga­tions of the EEOC’s law­suit, but it wel­comes the true facts com­ing for­ward.

“Lan­caster’s was founded by two friends, one AfricanAmer­i­can and one Cau­casian, and it con­tin­ues to hope that in the spirit of their friend­ship it can con­tinue to serve and re­spect all cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees in an in­clu­sive, di­verse and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” Robin­son said in the state­ment emailed to the Ob­server.

Knox worked in the car­ry­out area at Lan­caster’s BBQ’s Mooresville restau­rant from March 2016 through Jan­uary 2017, ac­cord­ing to the EEOC. She ”was forced to re­sign” af­ter the co-worker threw the hot BBQ sauce on her and again called her the Nword, the EEOC’s news re­lease said.

“In 14 years of prac­tice in Char­lotte and what must be hun­dreds of charges filed, I’ve never had the EEOC le­gal depart­ment file suit on be­half of one of my clients,” Knox’s lawyer, Josh Van Kam­pen, said in an emailed state­ment to the Ob­server. “I think that speaks vol­umes to what was un­cov­ered in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The events in this case harken back to the in­tim­i­da­tion and hos­til­ity blacks en­coun­tered at Wool­worth lunch coun­ters.”

Van Kam­pen told the Ob­server that he in­tends to file a “mo­tion to in­ter­vene” in the fed­eral law­suit by the end of the month, “adding claims of bat­tery, in­ten­tional in­flic­tion of emo­tional dis­tress against the as­sailant and the restau­rant and a claim for neg­li­gent re­ten­tion and su­per­vi­sion against the restau­rant.” Van Kam­pen said. He also will add “fed­eral 1981 claims for race dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

EEOC sued Lan­caster’s “af­ter first at­tempt­ing to reach a pre-lit­i­ga­tion set­tle­ment through its con­cil­i­a­tion process,” ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion’s news re­lease. The com­mis­sion’s law­suit seeks back pay and mon­e­tary dam­ages for Knox.

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