Thirty three Black employees stayed home in protest. The employer apologized, and basically said they didn’t realize this menu would be racially insensitive and ignorant. However, the following day the employer served fried chicken, and collard greens!
There are cases that were litigated that involved similar allegations such as the following:
- Offering a Black employee a watermelon flavor Slurpee drink while offering a different flavor to a White employee. Williams v. United/Continental, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106534 (D. Colo. June 26, 2018)
- When a Black employee brought a watermelon into work, remarking that “all Black people like watermelon.” Carter v. Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 456 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2006)
- Manager commenting he thinks the employees were making him Black because they were having a barbecue which included collard greens. Mufti v. Aarsand & Co., 667 F. Supp. 2d 535, 541 (W.D. Pa. 2009).
In general, the required elements of a hostile work environment claim are:
(1) belonging to a protected group;
(2) suffering unwelcome harassment;
(3) the harassment was based on a protected characteristic of the employee, such as race;
(4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment; and
(5) the employer is responsible for that environment under a theory of either direct liability or vicarious liability.
It is unknown whether presenting a menu including watermelon, fried chicken and collard greens will rise to the required level of being sufficiently “severe.” However, if there is other evidence of race-based comments or incidents, then such an alleged race-based menu could be used as evidence of a pervasive atmosphere that Blacks have to deal with in the workplace.
This is not the first time that I have written about these type of comments. In fact, here is an article I wrote called, How bad are comments about black people and fried chicken?
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Celebrating Juneteenth at work by serving watermelon, fried chicken, and collard greens?
Juneteenth became a federal holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the US on June 19, 2021.
Many businesses hopped on the bandwagon to celebrate this new holiday.
Ikea got it very wrong.
They thought it would be a good idea to honor Black people by creating a special menu containing watermelon, fried chicken, and collard greens.