A Panera Bread Franchise Doesn’t Allegedly Want "Fat," "Black" or "Ugly" Employees

In response, Covelli Enterprises is facing a class action lawsuit. 

Posted: 01/11/2012 06:08 PM EST

“Fat,” “Black” and “Ugly” are three characteristics a Panera Bread franchise allegedly has a policy of keeping away, and now, if true, the franchisee may be learning the meaning of the saying “think before you speak.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday, Guy M. Vines, 21, a former employee, claims that Panera Bread franchisee Covelli Enterprises, based in Warren, Ohio, discouraged managers from hiring African-Americans and kept them restricted to out-of-sight jobs.

"If you're Black, we don't allow you to work in the front, and we don't promote you into management?” Sam Cordes, Vines’ attorney, told a local newspaper when sarcastically speaking of the incident.

Vines, an African-American, worked at a Covelli-owned Panera Bread from November 2009 to August 2011. While he was there, a district manager told a store manager that the Covelli owner might give Vines and another Black employee a “death sentence” if he saw them working a cash register.

Because of the policies, lack of promotions and continuous reprimanding, Vines alleges that he was eventually forced to quit.

If the accusations are true and the company doesn’t act fast, they could be forced to pay out thousands of dollars to victims. Matrix, L.L.C, one of the largest cleaning companies, for example, was recently ordered to pay $450,000 to 15 former employees for allegedly demanding white supervisors to not hire Black cleaners.

Last week, Covelli Enterprises filed a response to the complaint broadly denying accusations of discrimination.

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(Photo: John Gress/Reuters)