Domino’s manager mimicked a slave owner at work and was later promoted, feds say

Gene J. Puskar/AP

A Domino’s employee quit his job after he and other Black employees reported co-workers using racist slurs, leading to further harassment and physical threats that made him feel unsafe, federal officials said.

Two white Domino’s managers mimicked the “voice and mannerisms” of slave owners in April 2021, calling the employee who ultimately quit “boy,” according to a federal lawsuit filed Feb. 2. The managers later received pay raises, and one was promoted to assistant manager, the complaint says.

“Go hang them tags, boy,” the one manager said before the other manager chimed in, repeating the voice and orders, the complaint says.

When the employee objected to this, he was told to “go ‘get a tampon’ if he was so upset,” according to the complaint.

Now the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Parris Pizza Company, LLC, the Domino’s franchise that ran the restaurant in Olean, accusing it of allowing racial harassment, the agency announced in a Feb. 2 news release.

In a statement to WIVB, Domino’s said “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.”

McClatchy News attempted to contact Parris Pizza for comment Feb. 3 and didn’t receive a response. McClatchy News also contacted Domino’s on Feb. 3 and didn’t receive a response.

“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,” Jeffrey Burstein, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, said in a statement. “This lawsuit sends a clear message that racial harassment of employees will not be tolerated.”

The lawsuit comes after a white gunman murdered 10 Black people in November while they were shopping at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, according to the Associated Press. The “racially motivated” mass shooting happened about 75 miles north of the Domino’s in Olean.

Andrew Ross, the Black employee who felt “compelled to resign,” filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, accusing his former employee of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the complaint.

The agency initiated the lawsuit after trying to work with Parris Pizza to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the release said.

Black workers faced ‘numerous racist comments,’ lawsuit says

In 2019, Ross started working at the Domino’s in Olean preparing pizza, at the cash register and as a delivery driver, the complaint says.

At the restaurant, “white managers and co-workers openly subjected Ross and other Black employees to numerous racist comments” during every shift, according to the complaint.

When a female Black employee made it known to all co-workers that she did not like others using a racial slur, one manager emerged from the bathroom, approached her face, stared at her and used the slur, the complaint says.

On another occasion, the other manager was telling Ross a story involving a Black person, “whom (he) ‘aggressively’ referred to as ‘that (racial slur),’” the complaint says.

The two managers also made general negative comments about Black people, including how most of them are “woke” and “poor,” according to the complaint.

The pair didn’t stop the racist behavior after Ross and other Black employees repeatedly objected and asked them to stop, the EEOC says.

In April 2021, after Ross complained to the store’s owner about the two managers mimicking slave owners, one manager apologized to the owner but denied he was being racist, according to the complaint.

Ross said the other manager stared at him “red in the face” while gripping scissors tightly in a threatening manner the same day he complained, the complaint says.

Since Ross’ boss didn’t address the racial harassment, he resigned, according to the EEOC.

About 30 days later, the boss raised both managers’ pay and promoted the one who apologized to him, the complaint says.

“Every employee has a right under federal law to a workplace free of racial slurs,” EEOC New York Acting District Director Timothy Riera said in a statement. “Employers cannot ignore this type of behavior but rather must take steps to stop it.”

The EEOC is demanding a trial by jury with its lawsuit.

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