Alabama beverage distributor to pay $ 825,000 in racial discrimination lawsuit
Birmingham Beverage Company, Inc., also known as AlaBev, a wholesale distributor of specialty foods and beverages, must pay $ 825,000 and provide other remedies to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit.
The settlement of the lawsuit was announced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. The EEOC originally filed a complaint in 2017.
The company has been accused of failing to consider African-American employees for promotions to vacant road sales positions. One example is Ronnie Johnson, a black employee who applied for a route sales position.
“Despite six years of exemplary professional performance with the company and previous experience selling routes, Birmingham Beverage turned him down for an interview and instead promoted a white delivery driver with only nine months of work experience, than Johnson supervised at the time, “said a Press release of the EEOC said.
Although black employees frequently expressed interest in promotions, none were hired in the four years leading up to the trial, according to the EEOC.
At least 11 white candidates or employees were hired or promoted to these route sales positions.
“At the time of the trial, the only two black road vendors in Birmingham Beverage were assigned to roads in predominantly African-American neighborhoods,” the statement said.
The lawsuit alleged Birmingham Beverage violated the Civil Rights Act 1964 on several occasions. As a result of the lawsuit, Johnson and 34 other black employees, past and present, will receive a monetary settlement.
Birmingham Beverage has also agreed to review its policies on the hiring and promotion processes to ensure black employees and applicants have a level playing field, provide anti-discrimination training to all employees, and hire a Title VII coordinator.
“This case illustrates the destructive and demoralizing impact that racial discrimination can have on employees when they are denied employment opportunities because of their race,” EEOC President Charlotte Burrows said in the press release. “For many years, African-American workers at Birmingham Beverage have demonstrated their physical fitness and desire for promotion, but have been denied employment opportunities due to the color of their skin.”
Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, PC is representing Birmingham Beverage in the litigation. According to their response on behalf of the company, Birmingham Beverage “supports its hiring and promotion decisions to hire and promote the most qualified candidates.”
They also claim to have employed “numerous African-American road vendors” over the past five years.
“The high costs of class action litigation have made the vigorous and continued defense of the lawsuit economically unworkable and presented a distraction to our core business operations,” the response states. “We look forward to continuing to hire and promote candidates and employees from all backgrounds to positions for which they are qualified. “