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Latino Daily News

Wednesday August 17, 2011

Court Rules Discrimination Claims Against Kraft Foods Provide Enough Evidence to Proceed With Case

Court Rules Discrimination Claims Against Kraft Foods Provide Enough Evidence to Proceed With Case

Photo: Court Rules Discrimination Claims Against Kraft Foods Provide Enough Evidence to Proceed With Case

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A judge has ruled that a Latino employees claiming they were discriminated against have the right to sue their employer Kraft Foods.

Jose Diaz and Ramon Peña, are among plaintiffs saying Kraft’s support services supervisor Peter Michalec’s dislike for Latinos led him to push for disciplinary actions against the workers, which cost plaintiffs their jobs.

Though having worked at Kraft for 10 years each, Diaz and Peña say Michalec told them to scrub parking lots, clean sewers and do other unpleasant tasks in the frigid Chicago winter “as often as possible” when it was never asked of non-Latino workers. They add that in 2008, when their positions were being eliminated by the company due to Kraft outsourcing jobs in the Glenview Tech Center, both men applied for the position of Kraft senior technician.

The men say they were removed from contention for the job after Michalec manipulated the hiring process, causing them to not even be considered, and by the time they realized he had done so, the position had already been filled.

Another employee’s claim states that in 2005, when Alberto Robles was having a heart attack, Michalec yelled, “Get the hell out of my office. Go die somewhere else.” Robles also claims he was not paid what he deserves because Kraft refused to promote him. When he spoke to Michalec about it, he was called a “gold-digger”.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman of the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that heard the case, said that while Robles’ claims were “offensive” and “utterly inexplicable”, they did not establish an ethnic bias.

However, for Peña and Diaz, the judge wrote that “There is enough evidence here to create a question for the trier of fact whether ethnic bias motivated Michalec’s decision not to hire Diaz or Peña for the sanitation positions”

The decision in Diaz and Peña’s case means they are now free to move ahead and with their lawsuit. Their case was remanded for trial.