Bass Pro, a nationwide retailer of sporting goods, and apparel products, engaged in a pattern or practice of failing to hire African-American and Hispanic applicants for positions in its retail stores nationwide, and retaliated against employees who opposed the discriminatory practices, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, Bass Pro has been discriminating in its hiring since at least November 2005. The EEOC’s suit alleges that qualified African-Americans and Hispanics were routinely denied retail positions such as cashier, sales associate, team leader, supervisor, manager and other positions at many Bass Pro stores nationwide.
The lawsuit alleges that managers at Bass Pro stores in the Houston area, in Louisiana, and elsewhere made overtly racially derogatory remarks acknowledging the discriminatory practices, including that hiring black candidates did not fit the corporate profile.
“Excluding qualified individuals from employment because of their race or ethnicity or in retaliation for exercising protected rights are fundamental violations of the laws we enforce,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the EEOC. “The EEOC will diligently protect the rights of job applicants to ensure that hiring decisions are based on abilities, not on race or ethnicity.”
The lawsuit also claims that Bass Pro unlawfully destroyed or failed to keep records and documents related to employment applications and internal discrimination complaints. Bass Pro punished employees who opposed the company’s unlawful practices, in some instances firing them or forcing them to resign.
All this alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race and national origin, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about employment discrimination and requires them to keep certain employment records.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting Bass Pro from engaging in race discrimination, national origin discrimination, retaliation, and improper record destruction. It also seeks back pay on behalf of victims of hiring discrimination and/or retaliation, compensatory and punitive damages and other relief, including implementing fair recruitment and hiring procedures, and reinstatement or rightful-place hiring of mistreated job applicants and former employees.