Supreme Court considers racial-discrimination lawsuit against Cracker Barrel

Supreme Court considers racial-discrimination lawsuit against Cracker Barrel

WASHINGTON Cracker Barrel Old Country Store [3] chain against a former restaurant manager who is invoking a 142-year-old civil rights law. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

At stake is whether the high court will affirm workers’ purported rights to sue an employer for retaliation under the Civil War-era law. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

The court’s decision, not expected until this summer, could threaten small and large restaurant companies with higher judgments for damages and a longer statute of limitations on the filing of retaliation lawsuits, legal experts said. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Alternatively, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court could restrict employees from seeking redress for retaliation under the ancient legal code. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

“The law does not provide for a cause of action for retaliation; it is not in the statute,” said Michael Hawkins, a Cincinnati lawyer who argued late last month before the Supreme Court justices on behalf of Cracker Barrel, which is owned by Lebanon, Tenn.-based CBRL Group Inc. [4] —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Cracker Barrel appealed to the high court after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of a black former manager who was suing the chain. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Hedrick “Rick” Humphries had worked as an associate manager for about three years at a Cracker Barrel in Bradley, Ill. According to his lawsuit, filed in 2003, he had been an exemplary employee, receiving top performance evaluations, bonuses and raises. But then a new general manager took over the restaurant. Humphries claimed the new boss made racist remarks and punished black employees unfairly. After Humphries complained, he was fired. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Cracker Barrel has denied any wrongdoing and argued that Humphries was fired for violating company policy for leaving a safe open overnight. Humphries, then representing himself, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Cracker Barrel. He made the claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and under the older statute, Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. Congress had passed the 1866 law after the Civil War to ensure full equality to all races, particularly newly freed slaves. Section 1981 was created to give black Americans the same rights as white Americans to “make and enforce” contracts. It also has come to apply to the contractual agreement between an employer and an employee. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Section 1981 has a four-year statute of limitations, whereas plaintiffs have between 180 to 300 days to file a claim under Title VII, explained Houston lawyer David Jordan of the labor law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski. Title VII also has caps on compensatory and punitive damages, up to $300,000 for the largest employers. Section 1981 has no limit on monetary rewards. Title VII-based claims also do not cover small restaurant operators, those with fewer than 15 employees. But those operators would be liable under Section 1981. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

“For the average restaurant which is already subject to retaliations under Title VII, [the Supreme Court] could make it easier for employees to bring retaliation claims, reaching back farther than 180 days and to get more damages for these sorts of claims,” Jordan said. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Section 1981 provides greater relief for plaintiffs in race discrimination cases, said Cynthia Hyndman, a Chicago attorney who argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Humphries. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Humphries did not pay the filing fee required under Title VII in time, so the district court judge threw out that portion of his lawsuit, leaving the complaint based only on the 142-year-old Section 1981. The district court judge then rejected Humphries’ suit. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Humphries, then represented by Hyndman’s law firm Robinson, Curley and Clayton, appealed. The appellate court ruled in his favor and sent the case back to district court for trial, at which point Cracker Barrel appealed to the Supreme Court. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

“The fact that the Supreme Court took the case underscores the need to clarify the legal protections available under section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866,” Hawkins said. “Courts have interpreted the statute in different ways, which is why we asked the Supreme Court to clarify whether there is a cause of action under that statute.” —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Cracker Barrel’s appeal has garnered the support of business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses Legal Foundation. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Humphries’ case is being supported not only by nearly four dozen historians and scholars but also by the Bush administration. U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement also argued before the Supreme Court justices in favor of upholding the principle of redress for retaliation under Section 1981. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

The justices peppered all three attorneys with technical questions about the law, related cases and Congress’ intentions regarding the older civil rights law. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

“The thing [the court] was struggling with was the word ‘retaliation,’ which does not appear [in the law], and we admit that,” Hyndman said. “The question in my mind is if you don’t have this protection, it gives employers and other contractors, anyone in a contractual relationship, free rein to circumvent the law.” —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

Regardless of how the high court decides, restaurant operators need to be careful about how they treat employees who complain about discrimination, Houston lawyer Jordan stressed. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit

“Liability for retaliation is just as big a liability as for the underlying discrimination,” Jordan said. —The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial racial-discrimination lawsuit that pits the 570-unit