Juneteenth work party with fried chicken, Big Red triggers suit - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Juneteenth work party with fried chicken, Big Red triggers suit

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Two former employees of a Dallas-area law firm are suing after the firm threw a Juneteenth party with fried chicken and Big Red among other alleged racial discrimination.

The two black employees allege unlawful employment practices, racial discrimination and having to work in a racially hostile work environment at the firm of Eberstein & Witherite, which does business under the name 1800-CAR-WRECK. The suit was filed in a Dallas County court on Aug. 2.

The suit alleges the firm threw a Juneteenth party in 2012 by serving fried chicken and Big Red soda "to its handful of African American employees only." The suit said the firm's management team, made up of white employees, made the choice to celebrate the holiday with the selected menu.

When a black employee asked for Juneteenth off, a white human resources manager allegedly wrote to the employee, "Y'all don't need no day off. Ya'll need to work."

Eberstein & Witherite cofounder Amy Witherite said the lawsuit is without merit in a statement to FOX4.

"This firm has been built upon core values of diversity and an inclusive workplace, and we will strongly defend ourselves against these unfair and untrue accusations of discrimination," Witherite said.

One of the plaintiffs, Julius Jackson, said he was reprimanded and retaliated against after he complained to management about the Juneteenth celebration. The suit said he was disciplined for acting "superior," which the suit said is code for being an "uppity Black male."

The second plaintiff, Erica Cornelius, was hired the day after the Juneteenth party and alleges the HR manager repeatedly questioned her about her ethnic background. The HR manager allegedly told Cornelius, "I don't even know if you're black," and "Oh No. You're not going to have that mad, bitter black attitude with me."

Cornelius also alleges she was pressured to work despite encountering complications with a pregnancy. The suit states she was criticized for not performing tasks she hadn't been trained to do.

Cornelius also felt pressure, the suit alleges, to return to work despite being ordered bed rest for her pregnancy. The suit states a superior told her she hadn't accumulated enough days off.

Both Jackson and Cornelius were fired within two days of each other in August 2012 because the firm felt they weren't "happy" at their job. Cornelius miscarried her child shortly after.

Jackson and Cornelius are seeking the maximum amount of damages allowed by law.

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