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Florida Restaurant Agrees to Pay $180,000 to Settle a Workplace Retaliation Claim


On April 27th, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Whataburger, the national fast food company, has agreed to pay $180,000 and adopt new human resources policies in order to settle a workplace retaliation claim.

Whataburger was facing a lawsuit from a former manager who alleges retaliation after she complained about discriminatory practices at the company. Here, our West Palm Beach employment law attorneys provide a more comprehensive overview of the allegations against the company and we explain the key things you should know about workplace retaliation laws.

Allegations: Manager Punished for Complaining About Discriminatory Practices   

The EEOC filed a complaint on behalf of a former manager of Whataburger in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. In its complaint, the agency contends that the general manager of Whataburger’s Tallahassee location instructed a local manager to hire white (not black) job applicants.

The local manager complained—noting that such a practice is discriminatory and a violation of state and federal employment laws. The EEOC alleges that this local manager was then retaliated against by the company. Among other things, she faced verbal abuse, harassment, schedule changes, and undesirable assignments. Eventually, she was forced to resign from the company.

Without admitting or denying wrongdoing, Whataburger has reached a settlement with the EEOC. The company will pay $180,000 to resolve the retaliation claim. Beyond that, the fast food giant also agreed to adopt new human resources policies, conduct additional anti-discrimination training of its upper management, and set up an anonymous hotline for employees to raise complaints.

 Workplace Retaliation: What You Need to Know   

Employees are entitled to a workplace that is free from all forms of unwanted harassment and unlawful discrimination. Should harassment or discrimination occur, an employee has the right to raise a complaint—both internally within the company and externally to state or federal regulators.

An employee who asserts their rights is engaged in what is called a ‘protected activity’. Under federal law, employers are strictly prohibited from taking adverse employment action against workers on the grounds that they engaged in protected activities. Some examples of adverse employment actions include:

  • Harassment;
  • Verbal or physical abuse;
  • Demotion;
  • Loss of pay or benefits; and
  • Termination.

Both employers and employees should understand workplace retaliation laws. Employers must put the proper protocols in place to ensure complaints are handled properly. The last thing any company wants to deal with is a lawsuit from an employee who alleges retaliation. Likewise, employees need to know how to protect their interests. An employee who has endured workplace retaliation should consult with an attorney.

Contact Our South Florida Employment Lawyers for Immediate Help

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida employment attorneys represent employers and employees in the full range of workplace retaliation cases. If you have questions, our legal team is here to get you answers. Call us today for a completely confidential initial consultation. We represent clients in West Palm Beach, Miami, and throughout Southeast Florida.




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