SLO Woman sues Chipotle over racist remarks

July 23, 2014

chipA woman who worked at Chipotle restaurant in San Luis Obispo filed a lawsuit that claims her former boss subjected her to racist discrimination for years.

Janeka Samuels, a black woman, was fired in Oct. 2013 from her job after several of her fellow employees complained about racist jabs allegedly made by district manager Ben Debilzen. In addition, Chipotle corporate failed to stop the harassment even though Samuels had reported the alleged abuse to human resources and corporate level staff, the suit says.

The alleged harassment included comments that Samuels was lucky to have a job, because she is black. In addition, she was told to wear a name tag that read “black beans rule.”

If the suit is not settled, it will likely be heard by a jury in spring 2015.


70 Comments

  1. Maxfusion says:

    Good grief, what a bunch of thin skinned sissies. My Hispanic boss referred to me as his “Gringo slave” and I called him a bean brain. We’d both laugh then get back to the business of getting the job done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  2. ironyman2000 says:

    As a current resident in a Spanish-speaking country, I can say I did not like being referred
    to as “Gringo”. I am well aware it is not necessarily an epithet. But I greatly prefer
    “Americano”. The “G” word is as a poor way to refer to a person as the “N” word or the
    “S” word or the “F” word or any other word meant to demean a person used by a person
    who believes he/she is better than the other person.
    These words hurt. The only people who feel good about them are the evil morons who
    use them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  3. SLO_Johnny says:

    What’s hilarious is that the SLO Chipotle is owned by Keyshawn Johnson, who is black. She should have sent a tweet to Keyshawn. I bet that would have got some action. Racism is alive in SLO. My wife is Korean. She is treated one way when we are together and quite differently when she goes out alone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  4. whatdouno says:

    There is just as much racism by blacks against blacks, and blacks against whites; and on and on. The subject is really tired and there is no solution because you just can’t change people’s attitudes or behaviors.
    Suing for discrimination may create a financial gain, but it won’t change the overall picture.
    I have been discriminated against on many levels, sexually harassed and wrongfully terminated when I stood up against it.
    Now I just walk away from these kinds of situations, because I am worth more than that and don’t want or need the stress.
    No amount of punitive actions/loss will change the attitude of a “hater” because they hate themselves more than anything else.
    Sticks and stones attitudes don’t work even in school anymore. Sadly it’s on the discriminated against, to just have to walk away and avoid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

    • MaryMalone says:

      I don’t think taking a case of racial discrimination to court, even if the plaintiff wins, will change the minds of people who have racist beliefs.

      In fact, I don’t give a rat’s @ss what racists believe…as long as they don’t act on those beliefs in illegal ways. When a case against discrimination makes it to court, It is to address the illegal behavior of a racist, not to change the beliefs of racists…except as a warning that they should keep their illegal racist behavior out of the workplace or face losing their job and having to pay a hefty court settlement.

      And successful court cases against illegal discriminative behavior DO change behavior, by sending a message to businesses who allow racist actions against others: you will pay for your inhumane negligence.

      They pay, hopefully, financially, both in the court settlement and in the fallout in public reaction as customers refuse to visit establishments which foster illegal racist behavior.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

      • whatdouno says:

        Mary just FYI, the locally owned business that allowed me to be fired, after reporting the activity of sexual harassment to both the corporate CEO in Texas and local big wig owner lost a lawsuit for an amount equivalent to one years salary. Not really a big deal to them.
        They lost four more lawsuits over the next five years and at the start of lawsuit #5 finally fired the manager. They never lost any local reputation or suffered any hardship except increase in insurance premiums.
        On the other hand I spent two years in therapy, got black balled in my career and got almost as much money out of the settlement as my attorney after all her costs, not worth it and didn’t change anything.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

        • MaryMalone says:

          I have a good friend who had the same bad experience.

          On the other hand, the Starbucks case made it big and did have an impact in awareness of harassment issues, with changes in company policies for many companies and government agencies.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        • GoneBabyGone says:

          Retaliatory Termination? Exactly! It’s usually a very strong component of a harassment or hostile work environment claim.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. indigo1955 says:

    I had an African American friend visit who works in the entertainment industry visit me here once. She commented several times she felt like a “fly in buttermilk”. I felt it too being with her-it had a chilling effect when we went places. It makes you wonder if Oprah labeled this city the “happiest city in the US” as a joke…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 8

    • willieslo says:

      Just sharing experience
      An old high school friend of mine visited me in SLO.
      He and his sons are Afro-Americans.
      My wife detested them because she and her friends have had bad experiences in the past years being harrassed and victims of other crimes.
      Yet and still my wife understood why, relenting to their history of their history of discrimination by whites.
      Anyway my friend and I toured SLO county and had no problems.
      Later my wife commented to me, that my friend and his children was a very educated and polite people “you can tell!”
      I commented to my wife that my friend Ron also detest blacks who are “way too free” to do anything they want to others for thrills or revenge based on ingrained illusions of history and media.
      The problem caused by fear from a bad experience with blacks is stereo-typing affecting or discrimination other blacks.
      On the other hand, refering to the master race of whites, the low class supremist are prejudice as hell, whose only god is money and power.
      These high class dressed whites may only momentarily be human or gives their sick bias a reprieve based on who vs what you are i.e. if your rich or powerful.
      Theses different scale, levels, or spectrum also occur among Asian, Hispanics, and any other race.
      So pick your friends well despite what their race is!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. wineguyjc says:

    Racism and discrimination in the happiest place in America, say it isn’t so. Those union boys better hide their sheets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 9

    • zaphod says:

      Huh what union ?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

    • bobfromsanluis says:

      Racism and discrimination happen all over the world, and probably the saddest part of that is how many people who do discriminate don’t really understand that that is what they are doing. How many times have you justified to yourself something hurtful you have said out loud to another human being, even knowing that you were being a dick? It really doesn’t matter where one finds bad behavior, if you witness it, don’t let it pass without pointing it out.

      And as zaphod asked, what are you talking about with the comment “Those union boys better hide their sheets.”? Please explain.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

      • MaryMalone says:

        I bet the racists who say they didn’t know it was wrong when they embarrassed someone by making racist comments learn pretty quickly when they lose their worldly possessions in a court settlement.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  7. obispan says:

    Black beans do rule in Chipotle’s opinion. I say pinquito beans rule. I do not go to Chipotle because of the “way to cool” crappy customer service, just Taqueria Santa Cruz. Been to both once only. She’s black in SLO, hubby’s in the CMC, I think her desire to do a good job for the customer and make the best of her situation, which she was apparently well on track to doing, got in the way of Chipotle’s business plan. Mexican are frequently very racist against Caucasians and Blacks and get a free pass, like the one’s they get into our country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 10

  8. Rambunctious says:

    Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me…unless I’ve been raised to believe that everyone hates me for my skin color or my sexual predilection or my religion. And if I have a good attorney…cha ching!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 19

    • GoneBabyGone says:

      Wow! Someone needs to catch up with the times, ya think?! Racially motivated taunts, name calling as you call it, DO HURT! Not only those targeted but those who are within earshot (that’s why there are Hostile Work Environment Laws). It also hurts your business and its customer base as targeted and taunted employees are not very likely giving the best they can to their job and if overheard by a customer that customer is extremely likely not to return and will definitely share it with everyone they come into contact with.

      I was regional training manager for a fortune 500 company before retiring, within this industry, and I can tell you now words DO HURT! They are as hurtful and as long lasting as any physical abuse. General Restaurant Managers in this industry are more often than not very motivated towards satisfying people, customers first, but especially their supervisors. Bonuses rely on this, pay increase rely on this, promotions rely on this, and the fear of not satisfying is a very real and played upon emotion within this industry to “motivated”.

      This isn’t some school yard issue, this an issue where a persons livelihood, and probably the largest part of their life, is at risk! The fear of being labeled a “whistle blower” is the paramount reason for people not reporting this type of abuse. This industry is very close knit, going from one concept to another, from one franchisee to another, from one corporation to another with a “whistle blower” label is near impossible.

      I am confident that Chipotle had a very clear picture of this occurring with this certain DM and chose to ignore it as it WILL BE cheaper in the long run to do so. That’s a fact, Rambunctious! Just like the fact the WORDS DO HURT in the current and relevant world!

      I have an idea on the law suit side of the argument… Instead of making it a an EEOC concern lets criminalize it! Cover it under Civil Rights Laws, making it a criminal act to pursue this type of taunting and harassment. Publicly arrest the DM, book him or her into the county jail and let them exercise their due process rights in the criminal justice system rather than at the civil level…. Maybe you’ll be called in as a juror and you can see the harm this type of “name calling” actually does.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 11

      • Rambunctious says:

        “Racially motivated taunts, name calling as you call it, DO HURT!”

        Only if you allow it to hurt. The “times” as you call it has produced a bunch of people that care way too much about what other people think about them or what they say. It’s silly and life is too short to worry over what others think. Time to grow up…it’s all over in around 80 to 90 years if you’re lucky. Now if you’re being harmed physically or professionally then a crime has occurred and there is a legal path for retribution for such treatment. But to run to the courts whenever ones feelings have been hurt will eventually weaken real claims of racism.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

        • GoneBabyGone says:

          Rambunctious,

          You’re wrong, on so many levels….

          You ARE being “harmed’ professionally and physically… The physical aspect might be a little harder to prove but I know that the stress related to running a restaurant can be enough to cause health problems in itself and when you add harassment to the equation I cannot see how it couldn’t be physically harmful. Here are a few things that are caused by work place harassment from My last employers Training Manager Job Description and Resource Manuel:

          1. Obsessing about work on days off.
          2. Physical changes like high blood pressure that began after the verbal
          abuse started.
          3. Feeling shame for being pushed around.
          4. Loss of desire to pursue once enjoyable activities
          5. Feel guilty for causing the bad vibes at work (Hint: if the victim were the
          bully, s/he wouldn’t feel guilty.)

          Professionally? You are kidding, right? As a low level RGM the main thing that keeps you afloat in an industry that underpays EVERYONE employed under the district level is the respect of your “crew”! Your “crew”, your co-workers, are the backbone of your employment! They make or break you! If you are not shown respect by your immediate supervisor, or those above him or her, IT IS a snow ball effect working its way downward! That’s an industry fact, Rambunctious!

          And upwards from there? If you have a supervisor harassing you, it is, again, an industry fact, that it is very, very, very likely he or she is attempting to hold you back. That the harassment is quantified by his or her attempts to down play your performance or qualifications to move upwards. Why? Because the last thing this person wants is to have you as an equal, or God forbid, his or her supervisor after his or her harassment of you. Your bonuses would be effected, your pay raises would be effected, your over all performance reviews would be effected, they’d have to be! Makes sense?

          What exactly in your mind is “real racism”? What in your mind is “real harassment”? Define that for all of us, maybe then I can get a better grasp of your opinion.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

          • Rambunctious says:

            All I can say to that is; thank God I have the training, the skill and the ability to earn a living without a boss or employees. What a bunch of weak people we have around us today. What would you all have done 40 years ago? You had better find an answer to that question because with the direction we’re headed; those days will be back in your lifetime. Bonuses, reviews and pay raises…give me a break. Pick up a history book.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

            • GoneBabyGone says:

              I have (picked up a history book, or two)… All are not motivated in the direction you are and enjoy the benefits of working for others and shouldn’t have to put up with harassment because of it.

              40 years ago? The current harassment laws all started about that time, so after a couple hundred years (or so) of that type of behavior being expected and acceptable forward thinking people looked to end it for its obvious flaws. Should we go backward in time and just “toughen up”? No! What we should do is universally accept the FACT that harassment of any type is detrimental to everyone and do as much as we can to do away with it, that includes in the work place.

              And Rambunctious, next time you’re able let those folks that are serving you know that they are just as important in this society as any business owner is, as they are…

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

              • Rambunctious says:

                Well you seem like a very nice person but I think you may be missing where I’m coming from. I believe the women in question would benefit more by putting this experience into her motivational fuel tank and use it to her advantage. One day she may be motivated towards owning her own restaurant. If every time we feel (key word)…. wronged because of words spoken by our workmates we run out and find an attorney or worse; we push the powers that be for more laws, regulations and litigation we are cutting off our nose to spite our face.
                Anything that makes it harder for upward mobility to rule the day makes life tougher on us all. And litigation is one of those things that grind’s down the engine of progress. This is why it should be held for serious violations not just that someone’s feelings were hurt and she or he may see a payday for their efforts. And as far as I’m concerned all people that get up every day tired from the previous day but still get moving and go out and contribute to our society are hero’s in my book.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

                • GoneBabyGone says:

                  The only way litigation “grind’s down the engine of progress” is when it’s not taken seriously or its ramifications aren’t substantial enough to effect change. When a company is better off going through the process of litigation then addressing the problem at its onset than progress is definitely hindered.

                  This is an education challenge as well; educating all to the overall negative effects of any type of harassment in the workplace should be paramount. Generally speaking most companies don’t spend any real time in this type of training at the start of employment, if any, don’t do any follow up and have no on-going relevant to-date training.

                  There shouldn’t have to be courts involved in any part of our lives, right? We should all be sensitive to the needs and rights of all of those who we share this planet with, right? The only thing that hinders this? Human Beings! As long as we are the only part of that equation we’ll need the courts there….

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • MaryMalone says:

      Bull$hit. It is illegal to harass employees in the work place based on race.

      Ms. Samuels went through the proper channels in an attempt to correct the behavior, and the employer failed to act.

      I hope she wins and wins big. In some cases, having to pay a big court settlement is the only way to educate employers in a way they will take seriously.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

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