Woman, allegedly told she was 'too dark' to work at Olive Garden, may proceed with suit
- A woman who says she was told by an Olive Garden restaurant manager that she was “too dark" — at one point handing her a $20 bill and telling her to “go back to Burger King” — will be able to proceed with her lawsuit against the restaurant chain (McMillian v. Olive Garden Holdings LLC dba Olive Garden Restaurant, No. 5:18-189 (E.D. Ky, May 22, 2018)).
- Breyanna McMillian submitted an electronic application for employment at Olive Garden in November 2016. The application included a provision agreeing to submit to Olive Garden’s dispute resolution process. McMillian accepted the provision and signed the application electronically. She was hired after an interview and was told to attend new employee training the following day. McMillian claims she was subjected to the discriminatory treatment at the training session, but Olive Garden said she did not receive a job offer and showed up for training despite not having been hired.
- Olive Garden also said that McMillian should have to arbitrate her claim. The company asked that the district court dismiss the lawsuit or compel arbitration. The court denied the request, stating that "Olive Garden has failed to identify any authority in which an employee has been compelled to arbitrate solely on the employee’s acceptance of a generic [dispute resolution process] clause contained in an employment application." An agreement to arbitrate need not spell out the exact terms of arbitration to be enforceable, the court said, but the clause in question gave no indication of what the process might be and did not even include the word “arbitrate.”
Training, especially for supervisors, has long been considered an important aspect of preventing discrimination and harassment. Experts regularly cite front-line managers as a major cause of federal nondiscrimination law violations.
Compliance education is especially critical for front-line mangers and hiring managers, who experts say frequently cause violations because they lack training and have regular contact with employees and applicants. Creating compliance training that resonates with employees, can be challenging. Efforts must be ongoing and ingrained in company culture, experts say.
Given the number of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations plaguing high-profile businesses in the U.S., it's little surprise that these issues top employers' list of compliance training priorities.