Whataburger is facing a federal lawsuit after a former manager claimed she was ousted for refusing to follow a "racially discriminatory hiring directive to hire White—not Black— applicants.”
Vanessa Burrous, who had been a manager at a Whataburger location in Tallahassee, Florida since 2013, alleges she was forced to quit after being subject to “ongoing retaliatory conduct designed to intimidate and upset” her after she complained about being alledgely told to only hire white people.
Burrous filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which then filed the lawsuit against Whataburger on September 22. Whataburger has denied Burrous' allegations.
According to Burrous, her direct supervisor asked her to only interview job applications with "names that sounded white." Burrous instead hired eight employees, seven of whom were black and one of whom was white in 2015, which “infuriated” her supervisor, according to the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that when Burrous voiced her concerns to the area manager, who oversees all five Tallahassee Whataburger locations, she was told her other supervisor was not to blame and the discriminatory directive had come from “upper management.”
Burrous says she was forced to resign after facing “a climate of intimidation,” according to the complaint.
“I reported to upper management that I had been asked to commit unethical and illegal acts of racial discrimination when making hiring decisions,” Burrous wrote in her resignation letter. “I have suffered endless gossip, threats and abuse, both verbal and emotional, making the work environment intolerable for a reasonable person.”
Whataburger disagrees. “We did not retaliate against this employee nor did we ask her to use the alleged discriminatory hiring practices,” Whataburger said in a Tuesday statement. “We value diversity on our teams and proudly employ Family Members of all races. Approximately 75% of our workforce identifies as non-white.”