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.


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willieslo

For all any of you know, Janeka Samuels may be more prejudice than Ben Debilzen.

She knew exactly how to handle this matter from beginning to end.

Don’t let “NICE SMILES” fool you!

Many years ago, many employees of different race in an administrative hearing dropped our jaws when we witness a polished sweet appearing black female manager commit perjury in the hearing against an employee she did not like

I’ve worked in offices and saw white managers avoid or limit their supervision of black female employees because “I’m not going to do anything or get called a racist”!


Perspicacious

You may be right about Janeka. That is why I said I don’t know the FACTS of the case. I don’t know anything about her history or Debilzen or Chipotle’s. I am just saying my numerous interactions with Janeka were ALL positive.


I have seen racism in a Panda Express. I am not a minority(well, in CA I will be soon), but I went through the line in a Panda Express once a minority was scooping out the portions. I thought mine was particularly small but didn’t say anything and moved on. I took a table near the line and watched. The minority was giving huge, nearly double servings to customers who were the same race but small portions to anybody who wasn’t.


willieslo

Perspicacious says: 07/23/2014 at 2:55 pm

You may be right about Janeka. That is why I said I don’t know the FACTS of the case. I don’t know anything about her history or Debilzen or Chipotle’s. I am just saying my numerous interactions with Janeka were ALL positive.


There is no bad blood between you and Janeka. I believe you are correct in your statement confined only between the rapor or relationship between yourselves.


Janeka Samuels is likely okay or she may have misconstrue her interaction with Debilzen, or Debilzen could simply be a prick, as you say, I am saying the same “I don’t really know yet”


The example I mentioned about the black female manager caught lying under cross exam wiggle her way out of perjury. She was a former LAPD officer, we believe she learned how to lie, rope, coerce people into ruination to advance herself.


Perspicacious

I don’t know a thing about the facts of these allegations. I will say this, Janeka was my favorite employee down there by far! She was the most competent when dealing with special diets needs and the most knowledgeable. She was always helping other employees and giving them friendly tips and advice on how to better serve customers and be more efficient. I don’t think I ever saw her without a big, infectious, smile. Just an all-around sweetheart. Then, one day I noticed she wasn’t there and I always wondered where she went. I truly hope the TRUTH comes out on this.


slophocles

This DeBilzan sounds like de biggest idiot in the world. Maybe he can get transferred to a Chipotle in Utah or the Deep South.


Slowerfaster

I recommend Newark, New Jersey, Gary, Indiana, or Philadelphia, PA .


LAWMAN1

As an Employee of the County, I was made to attend harrasment classes and given a certificate, and these classes are full of good information…. but these employers don’t want to spend the money or waste the time… so now not only will the fast food chain be sued…but the manager can be sued as a individule. At lease if the fast food chain could prove that they provided harrasment training they may have been cleared..

But once again….it’s all about $$$$$$$$

we will never hear, it will be settled out of court for big money…


SLOBIRD

Thanks, Cindy, I did go read the Shredder regarding this matter. I do not read the New Times because of their bias and selective reporting but wanted to read more about this. It did give me a little more insight to this story but I still have questions connecting the dots. 1) Why was she promoted to manager but these allegations exist, 2) If manager why did she have to ask for a break, etc. etc. etc.


I will definitely reserve my comments on this story because my first feeling is everyone over reacts, everyone is lawsuit happy, and as we all know, things are not always as presented.


I am 110% against racism, children molestation, and adult/child abuse. Therefore, not wanting to create more harm to this young lady or Chipotle I will wait for the legal system to play out.


slophocles

Don’t know all the facts, either – but it could have happened before she was promoted. She could have been promoted in spite of, or because of these actions. Making manager at Chipotle is probably not that difficult or unusual. The breaks thing could have been from before she was salaried, or she may still be on an hourly wage and have to ask HER supervisor for breaks. I guess the main thing is, an international chain like that, with over 500 locations, should make sure that management and all employees are trained and disciplined when it comes to the area of discrimination and harassment.


GoneBabyGone

I find it interesting that you somehow contend “Making manager at Chipotle is probably not that difficult or unusual”. So, Ms Samuels came into this position without merit, with no great difficulty or even better “because of these actions?” You’re no better than the DM accused in this case slophocles, and attitudes such as yours is ripe for racist overtones and implications and only makes situations such as this more likely to happen in the future. Your attitude only makes those in these type of positions all that more “disposable” while making those in lessor positions even worse off.


SLOBIRD

Could of, should of, would have is speculation and does not add to the realties! There are usually more “facts” to unfold in these stories, like multi prior names, other lawsuits, etc. I will wait and see…


slophocles

Sounds like you’re not waiting at all.


Cindy

For more info, listen to Dave Congalron’s I Pod Cast from Monday (7/21). He had Janeka and her attorney Jeff Stulberg (sp) on at 5:PM. The story appears to be confirmed by other co-workers.


As for her being a manager, she was a manger with very little authority however only she was allowed to handle the cash register or any money. Therefore she could not take a break unless another manager was present. She had been working that day for 8 hours when the district manager finally appeared. She was hungry and needed a break and when she asked him to take over, he did not but rather asked her if she had ever seen the movie “Roots”. He then told her that he would hang her just they did to her people in that movie if she asked him for a break one more time! (This is confirmed by other Employees) This isn’t even the half of it. It’s actually hard to believe some of the things he did.


He actually caused her to have a panic attack and she fainted. She was carried out of work by ambulance and the doctor ordered her to take a week medical leave. When she went back to work, this same district manager fired her on the spot! It just goes on and on……..


He locked her in a tiny storage room and shut off the lights. After he let her out, he told her that she should be accustomed to things like that since she came from L.A. where people get their electricity shut off all the time. Like I said it just goes on and on.


He taped a sign on her back (under the pretense of a pat on the back) that said I’M FAT….. There is sooooooo much wrong doing here that I could go on and on.


Perspicacious

“I am 110% against racism, children molestation, and adult/child abuse.”


Wow! Going out on a limb making a bold statement like that!


fishing village

When I read this in New Times, Colin Rigley, I was thinking about how we all go through our lives and truly believe these things don’t happen (any more). but here it is in our face. I feel so badly for the woman, and that she came here and probably thought she could have a job and a life without discrimination. Brutes, bullies are everywhere, I’m glad this one was found out and will be punished and the company he works for will pay. Unfortunate all around.


slophocles

Bingo, fishing village. It even happens in quiet little businesses in quiet little fishing villages, allowed and perpetuated by well-known, and sometimes beloved public figures. People would be shocked.


nurse1

Fishing Village…when did the New Times become a valid and trustworthy source of “news”?


MajorityFan

1986.


zaphod

The new times taught me how to make meth !


achillesheal

Ms. Samuels and her attorney were guests on the Dave Congalton show Monday and I happened to hear the segment of the show. If her allegations are accurate, there is a major problem at Chipotle and she deserves to be compensated and her supervisor fired.


The systematic racism as well as harassment and even behavior approaching criminal that she alleges (if true) was horrible and disgusting. She stated that she has witnesses to his behavior including when he told her that if she asked again for a break he would hang her “roots style”.


She was fired after writing an email plea to the CEO of Chipotle, who promised her that he would look into the situation. Her email was shared with the supervisor and she was fired in realiation.


She was a manager at Chipotle, a position she likely worked her way up to obtain. Not easy to up and quit with paycheck and benefits at stake.


pasoparent5

Yes, I also heard that interview and believed Janeka’s allegations. She was well-spoken and detailed…hard to believe she made any of that stuff up.

I have a feeling Chipotle will be settling out of court for a lot of $$$.


SLOBIRD

I am always amazed about someone making these types of complaints but stay on the job for years. This is a fast food, minimum wage job, entry level. If true, why would you stay on this job. I have had jobs where there was inappropriate statements, behavior, requested to do inappropriate action and just left. Just move on without the lawsuit bonus.


Cindy

I was of the same opinion until I read her story. The full details of the story are over in the New Times.


mbactivist1

To refuse to give in to racist attacks shows a great deal of courage. This kind of thing happens all too often.


I worked for a long time for a large corporation that had a stellar reputation for treating its people well, but there were notable exceptions. A black friend and fellow employee was insulted and demeaned several times by a particular manager and by employees in one of the southern facilities.


He stayed with the company because he was trying to make a career there, and felt that most of the management and other employees were good people who did not discriminate, and because he expected to find this kind of thing pretty much anywhere he worked.


People don’t want to give up on their career plans with a basically good organization just because of a few creeps. They hope they can last long enough to move into another position out of the abuser’s sphere of influence.


It’s a lonely battle. In big companies, risk management and personnel departments will always protect the abuser for fear of lawsuits and financial loss to the company. Other employees are afraid to stand up for the person being abused for fear of being attacked and/or fired themselves


Kudos to this lady and to the fellow employees whose written statements back up her claims (see article in other news source). I hope that things work out better for her in her next job, and that the people who did what they felt was right stood by her will not be subject to negative repercussions..


kayaknut

I’m guessing you are also amazed at abused spouses/girlfriends who stay with the abuser, instead of in your words, “Just move on without the laswsuit”


Slowerfaster

Oh yeah … !

Just like those darn uppity slaves didn’t know how good they had it with free food and housing.

Then Lincoln had to go and ruin their gravy train with emancipation !


( wish there was a ‘satire’ emoticon )


slophocles

Yes! And they didn’t have to wear no stupid nametags either. I believe they still had to ask for bathroom breaks, though.


bobfromsanluis

“If true, why would you stay on this job.”


Well, first, it is illegal to harass individuals who work for you or that are in a position subordinate to your own. To be subjected to racial slurs, fat shaming, remarks about your spouse being incarcerated, being grateful that you have a job in a very white area when you are the only black person working there, all of these comments add up to a pattern of harassment by a person in a position of authority. Couple that with no real action by the company when they are made aware of the harassment, followed up by a termination of the complaining employee and a promotion of the harasser, and there is a distinct trail that implicates the company of a tacit approval of such harassing behavior by a manager type employee.


The other part of the suit, which is actually a separate suit, lists Mrs. Samuels as an interested party in a class action suit concerning Chipotle either ignoring California rules and work place laws or knowingly violating those laws and rules concerning making employees work “off the clock”, not getting required breaks and other violations of workplace laws.


Again, this all adds up to a pattern of abuse and violations; don’t patronize Chipotle until this matter is resolved.


achillesheal

Well put.


According to her interview on the radio – not getting required breaks included not getting a lunch break, which is what triggered the lynching remarks alleged.


nurse1

Oh PLEASE, I work 12 hour days often without a lunch break. When someone comes into the ER after a near fatal car crash we can not stop and say. Excuse me, I did not get my lunch break that is required by law. Get over it lady and move the heck on.


bobfromsanluis

While I have absolutely no doubt that you do work 12 hour shifts and won’t always get a lunch break, working at a hospital and working retail food service is not comparable at all. You can most likely use the restroom any time you want, food service employees often have to ask to use the restroom. You most likely have a chance to sit down to do some paper work on your shift, retail food workers are usually not allowed to sit down at all unless they are on a break. There is a real difference between the two jobs.


And have you ever had to put up with harassment, sexual innuendoes, fat shaming or racism in you job? Don’t you think your job would be that much more frustrating if you had to put up with crap like that as well?


BeenThereDoneThat

Bob could you be any more obtuse?? She said ER. Hmm that can mean a LOT of standing especially if they are in the middle of operating etc. and I bet if in the middle of an operation they can’t just walk away. I’m sure they to would have to ask. Funny how you empathize with the woman in the article and yet not the nurse. You sir are a hypocrite!!!


BeenThereDoneThat

One more, Bob, yes your are right there is a BIG difference between these two jobs you mention. STRESS!!! The nurse has the responsibility of a life in her hands, the other the responsibility of one’s lunch or dinner. HUGE difference. Now before you all rush for the down arrow as usual, I am NOT against the woman mentioned here, I am pointing out Bob’s lame comparison in saying the food server has it tougher than the nurse. I don’t think so.


nurse1

Bob, sit down and do paperwork? You are kidding right? How about standing, and running for a 12 hour shift? Sorry Bob, we do our charting standing up. And yes Bob there is a real difference between the 2 jobs. I know this well as while I was going to nursing school by day, I worked as a waitress at night.And if I wanted to make $ as a waitress, I did not worry about sitting down.


bobfromsanluis

Funny, I never said or tried to show how the job of a nurse or that of a fast food manager is somehow equal; you were the one who brought up the fact that you work 12 hour shifts and don’t always get a lunch break, and in doing so it seems that you were attempting to diminish the veracity of the claims Mrs. Samuels was putting forth.


As an ER nurse, are you the person who is “in charge” and as such is totally responsible for everything that happens in that ER? The fast food manager is responsible for everything while they are the only manager on the job. And of course it is a given that the responsibility of a fast food manager and that of an ER nurse are in no way comparable; I was not trying to assert that Mrs. Samuels has it “tougher” than the job of an ER nurse- my assertion is that having an immediate supervisor who is f*cking with your mind by means of intimidation, using racial slurs and the other, documented violations of discriminatory behavior by the male manager of the female manager trainee would make any and every job much harder than it already is.


And since you yourself personally know the difference between the job of an ER nurse and that of a waitress, why do you choose to be a nurse? I’m pretty sure you enjoy helping people, comforting them, helping them to get better and generally being the near-angel that most nurse can be, but don’t you also get paid somewhat better as well? (Which I should add, is exactly what you should be getting, which is a better paycheck than that of a waitress or fast food manager, probably one of the reasons why you went to school and paid for all of that on your own.)


My main point about the difference between the job of a nurse and Mrs. Samuels job she had at Chipotle wasn’t the amount of responsibility or the hours worked, it was the hostile environment she had to operate in; surely your nursing job would be much more difficult if you had to endure the same sh*t she had to put up with.


GoneBabyGone

Yes, there are real difference nurse 1, no doubt! But to try and diminish this person’s rights because her duties are not up to yours is as misguided as the DM’s alleged comments toward her.


Your duty towards your patients is paramount, now try doing those duties with a Doctor, Charge Nurse, or some other Supervisor type in your ear making sure you know your limitations because of your race or gender; not so easy now, is it?


A QSR (Quick Service Restaurant/Fast Food) RGM’s day is about 35 to 40% “paperwork” (administrative) the rest is on his or her feet doing all those things that his or her crew members are required to do. Also, without exception an RGM is required to put in a minimum of 50 hours a week, most do between 57 and 60! Pretty challenging, don’t you think?


My former girl friend was a health care giver (with experience in the ER), her main complaint? Was the amount of paperwork involved. So, how much of your time is spent ‘sitting down and doing paperwork”?


My first wife “pushed drinks” at the Palamino Club in No. Hollywood for about 4 years and she made more in a 5 hour shift than I did in a week! Waitresses are not fast food workers as they are tipped employees. A manager is even further removed, as they are salaried and also not tipped employees. I’ve had waiters and waitresses make MUCH more than I did as an RGM while working far lass hours, and in that day tips were not claimed nor taxed!


Aa far as breaks go? Most RGM’s that I have worked with take those “breaks” while doing their administrative responsibilities… That, to me, is motivation!


achillesheal

Well, unfortunately the dol says that’s illegal for the rest of us employers.


Putting aside whatever biases someone might have, how would you feel if this was your daughter. If what she said is true.


slophocles

Survival. Changing jobs cam be traumatic and risky. Switching jobs can damage your wok history. No better opportunities available. You’re not the one breaking the law. Oh, and you shouldn’t have to.


BeenThereDoneThat

I would be curious about the ………….black beans rule. Is this a catch phrase that is used for the chain? And if so do most employees wear? It is Mexican food and I’m sure black beans is a main ingredient. It is vague on that part.


Cindy

Each Employee is given an “individualized” name tag by the district manager. For instance, another Employee named Cheater had a large mustache and was given a name tag that said “Chester the Molester” !


slophocles

I’ll bet that program won’t be around much longer.


GoneBabyGone

“Black Beans Rule” is a catch phrase of the chain, but to put that on a an African-Americans employees name tag is not only insensitive but down-right stupid, it will probably be a point of proof for her allegations down the line. The “Chester the Molester” one? I would, as an employee, refuse to wear it, period! Who is this DM? Talk about a walking talking liability? He sure takes the cake…


I can tell you that racism in that industry is as common as the likelihood of having someone of color serve you, or prepare the food you’ve ordered, in one of those establishments. I find it perplexing though; in an industry that attracts people of color more times than not how can that type of culture survive? From personal experience I can tell you the main component of how it does: There are not enough people of color in management positions! From the assistant managers up it is about as lilly white as any industry can be.


I can only wish Ms Samuels the best as she is in for a fight, one that will probably be settled long before it goes to trial.