MIAMI -- The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced yesterday that it has filed employment discrimination suits against the Atlanta Bread Co. restaurant chain, BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., and auto parts retailer AutoZone Inc.
In separate lawsuits filed Thursday in federal court here, the EEOC claimed that Natick, Mass.-based BJ's and Smyrna, Ga.-based Atlanta Bread International Inc. allowed racial discrimination against black and Hispanic employees. The complaint against Memphis, Tenn.-based AutoZone, filed yesterday , accuses the company of permitting sexual harassment of several female workers.
The EEOC also filed suit against ARO Enterprises, which owns the Atlanta Bread store in Pembroke Pines, about 20 miles north of downtown Miami.
In each of the cases, the EEOC said it tried first to settle with the companies. The EEOC is asking a judge to prevent future acts of discrimination and to order the companies to pay back wages and damages.
AutoZone spokesman Ray Pohlman said the company does not generally discuss ongoing litigation, but he said, ``we are confident that AutoZone's employment practices and policies will be upheld in court."
BJ's released a statement saying it could not address the specifics of the lawsuit but that the company ``takes any allegation of discrimination very seriously and does not tolerate discriminatory behavior of any kind."
The Atlanta Bread Co. said in a statement it was committed to ensuring its franchised bakery cafes are equal opportunity workplaces, but that it had not seen any court filings and was unable to comment on the specific allegations.
ARO Enterprises attorney Patrick DeBlasio declined to comment on the case .
According to the EEOC, between June and Sept. 2005, the Atlanta Bread Co. and ARO Enterprises, also known as Acra Enterprises, fired black employees and segregated them by race at the South Florida restaurant.
In the BJ's case, managers at the company's Homestead store in south Florida allegedly harassed Hispanic and black employees with slurs and other derogatory comments.
In the Autozone case, the manager of the Starke AutoZone store in north Florida allegedly made repeated unwelcome sexual advances and offensive comments to female employees between October and December of 2005. The women complained to the manager but said no action was taken until one of the victims was fired in January 2006.