Sweetgreen, the popular fast food restaurant that serves salads, is facing a lawsuit filed by several employees who claimed they were racially discriminated against and that their general managers fostered a hostile work environment.
The lawsuit obtained by Axios lists ten employees — who worked at multiple locations throughout New York City — as plaintiffs. It was filed in the New York Supreme Court in the Bronx on Thursday and amended a previous complaint filed earlier this year that included two plaintiffs, the outlet reported.
The plaintiffs comprise Black men and women and said they were subjected to racial slurs and derogatory terms from their peers and supervisors. They said they were labeled the N-word “gorilla,” “negro” or “negra” by Hispanic co-workers, according to the lawsuit. In separate incidents, the plaintiffs claimed their colleagues commented, “This monkey doesn’t know how to toss salad correctly” or “Fix your hair.”
Some people in the group also claimed that management favored Hispanic workers who were less qualified by giving them more hours, better shifts, higher pay, and promotional opportunities. In addition, when some of them made a report to their supervisor or human resources department, they failed to address their concerns adequately.
In the lawsuit, the woman alleged that they were targeted because of their gender and experienced sexual harassment at work, including touching that made them uncomfortable.
Multiple employees shared their experience with general managers Donald Izquierdo and Edwin Ventura, referred to as head coaches at their respective restaurants. In one instance, according to the lawsuit, Kiana Alvarado alleged that while working at the 55th Street and Park Avenue location in 2019, a team member made a sexual remark towards her, and Izquierdo brushed it off.
“A fellow Team member who worked in cold prep told Plaintiff Alvarado in Spanish that she had ‘d**k-sucking lips,” the lawsuit stated. “When Plaintiff Alvarado complained to Izquierdo about this incident, Izquierdo told her not to speak to Pablo. Izquierdo took no action against Pablo.”
According to court documents, another plaintiff, Shanta Stevens, claimed that Ventura did not discipline workers who were using the N-word against her at the 67 Wall Street restaurant in 2020.
“Hispanic employees named Ashley Garcia and Abril would constantly use the n-word to Black employees in a derogatory manner, saying ‘Yo, shut up my n***er’ or ‘y n***er, you’re stupid,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff complained to Ventura about Ashley and Abril’s use of the n-word. Ventura responded by saying to Plaintiff Stevens, in sum and substance, ‘Oh, we have to work together, we’re a team.”
The lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney-related fees.
A representative for Sweetgreen told Axios that the company takes “these accusations seriously” and does not “tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions.”
Sweetgreen is not the only restaurant chain to come under fire in recent months. Two Black truckers said they are considering legal action after South Dakota Denny’s employees called the police and refused to serve them.