Kraft Heinz $30M Class Action Lawsuit Over Workplace Harassment
Coworkers and supervisors allegedly harassed and discriminated against Black Kraft Heinz employees for years, using the “N” word, writing swastikas on lockers, sending them threatening messages, and obstructing their promotions, according to a new $30 million lawsuit.
Alex Horn, et al. v. Kraft Heinz Foods Company LLC
Alex Horn, Lance Aytman, and Keith Hooker — all former Kraft Heinz employees — filed the lawsuit in California. Kraft Heinz, which paid $13 million in 2019 to resolve allegations that it pushed employees to work unpaid overtime, reportedly violated the Civil Rights Act by permitting racial discrimination as well as harassment in the workplace at its Tulare plant.
According to the lawsuit, the global brand acts as a remembrance of the periods of anti-Black racism they endured, with employees making comments such as “leave or die N-word,” “all n-word must go,” and “no N-word coordinators.”
In the workplace harassment claim, it is stated that racial epithets, which were hurled both intentionally and casually, along with racist symbols, were widespread.
It was common for non-Black employees to use the ‘N-word’ in reference to specific Black coworkers, as well as in general. Because of many Black employees’ accusations, managers were not only made aware of these racist acts but also witnessed firsthand and, in some cases, participated in the misbehavior.
It was made clear even from the beginning of their employment that their decent salaries came at a great cost, according to the workplace harassment lawsuit and Horn, Aytman, and Hooker. At the Tulare Plant, employees were discriminated against, targeted, and harassed because of their race.
Years of Alleged Workplace Harassment at Kraft Heinz
Horn is Black and Latino and began working at the company in 2011. He claimed that he endured years of racial discrimination and workplace harassment at the hands of his non-Black coworkers and superiors. Horn developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems as a result of the abuse, requiring a medical leave of absence.
Then, in September 2019, while Horn was on unpaid leave, Kraft Heinz terminated his employment.
Aytman, who began working full-time in 2013 after two years of persistently attempting to obtain full-time employment, claims he experienced years of discrimination as well as workplace harassment at the hands of his non-Black coworkers and superiors. According to the claim, the abuse caused Aytman to suffer anxiety and depression, needing a medical leave of absence, during which he was terminated in July 2019.
Hooker started working at the Tulare Plant from 1996 through June 2018, when he was constructively discharged. In 2012, he discovered a message labeled “No ‘N-words’ as coordinator” in his locker.
As the sole colored employee with the designation of Back-up Coordinator, Horn’s outstanding performance should have qualified him for advancement to Coordinator. The lawsuit alleges that Kraft Heinz management took no corrective measures after Horn turned in the note.
In 2012, the harassment intensified when someone broke into and vandalized the vehicles of Horn and another colored employee parked in the Tulare Plant’s parking lot.
According to the lawsuit, someone urinated on Horn’s front tire during the vandalism. Horn claims he had to pay for the cost of replacing the stolen items and repairing the damage out of pocket.
Horn complained to the Plant Manager about being targeted for racial harassment. Instead of address his concerns, he was told to “give it some time” and threatened with retaliation by being told he “could no longer work” at Kraft Heinz if he retained legal counsel, according to the lawsuit.
Ultimately, after observing how his work environment had altered his personality, Hooker felt obliged to leave the company in 2018, despite being only a few years away from his scheduled retirement after over two decades of service.
According to the workplace harassment lawsuit, all three employees are now unable to keep working at Kraft Heinz to preserve their already compromised mental health and physical safety.
Specifically, in 2018, death threats compelled Hooker to retire and Horn and Aytman to seek medical leave.
Horn and Aytman constantly expressed a desire to return to work as soon as their lives were no longer threatened. Rather than choosing to take basic measures to protect Horn and Aytman’s safety at work or allowing them to continue on unpaid medical leave, the lawsuit states, Kraft Heinz tried to dismiss Horn and Aytman.
The anti-Black abuse came from supervisors and coworkers who had the final say over Plaintiffs’ promotions, transfers, and raises. Not unexpected, bosses prioritized non-Black employees over Plaintiffs.
Despite the persistence and intensification of harassment and discrimination, the lawsuit argues that Kraft Heinz failed to take substantive remedies adequate to deter potential misconduct or protect Black employees despite full awareness of the plant’s racism.
Although no monetary compensation can restore the “trust, dignity, and well-being” that years of unrelenting racial abuse have deprived them of. The lawsuit says that the group is seeking reimbursement for the considerable harm, including lost income and continued emotional distress. They are seeking $30 million in monetary damages.
The plaintiffs are suing for violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking class certification, damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs, interest, and a jury trial.
Editor’s Note on Kraft Heinz Racism Class Action Lawsuit:
This article is written to inform you of the $30M class action lawsuit filed against Kraft Heinz over allowing workplace harassment to their black employees. Recently, Mc Donald’s settled a class action with its employees over unsafe working environment amid Covid-19.
Case Name & No.: Alex Horn, et al. v. Kraft Heinz Foods Company LLC, Case No. 1:21-at-00830
Jurisdiction: U.S. District Court Eastern District Of California
Products/Services: Discrimination against black employees
Allegations: Kraft Heinz employees and supervisors are allegedly harassing and discriminating against their black employees
Do you think $30M is enough for the lawsuit to be settled? Click the “Contact Us” button below and share with us your thoughts!