Crime

Brockton bakery to pay restitution for allegedly creating ‘racially hostile work environment’

"Workers should be able to do their job in an environment safe and free from harassment."

A family-owned Brockton bakery will have to pay thousands in restitution after a settlement was reached over allegations of racial harassment towards an employee.

In 2019, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office filed a lawsuit against White’s Bakery after an employee came forward alleging they’d been exposed to repeated racial slurs in the workplace. On Wednesday, the AG’s office announced that White’s Bakery will have to pay up to $95,000 in penalties and restitution, require anti-bias training for employees, and revise its anti-discrimination policies.

“Workers should be able to do their job in an environment safe and free from harassment,” Healey said in the release. “Employers need to ensure that they have the right training, policies and accountability to make sure things like this don’t happen in their workplaces.”

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According to Healey’s office, White’s Bakery violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by creating a racially hostile work environment “in which one of its long-time supervisors repeatedly used racial epithets and slurs in front of subordinate employees, including the victim.”

The AG’s suit alleged that the victim, who is of mixed-race descent, was regularly subjected to “hateful language” by his supervisor. The language included variations of the “n-word,” according to the AG. In 2019, Brockton newspaper The Enterprise reported more specifically that the language included calling Alabama “n—–ville,” cleaning the floor “n—– work,” impersonating acts by Black comedians that included the “n-word,” and referring to singer Bobby Brown as a “crackhead n—–.”

Further, the AG’s complaint alleged that bakery management knew about the harassment and didn’t do anything.

“Discrimination anywhere should not be tolerated,” Phyllis Ellis, President of the Brockton Area Branch NAACP, said in the release. “White’s Bakery and its management have been held accountable for creating an unacceptable and racially hostile work environment. I was hopeful that this lawsuit would bring change in policy at White’s Bakery, and I think it has.”

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White’s Bakery will pay $65,000 to the victim and up to $30,000 to the state. The bakery will also require all employees to take anti-bias, anti-discrimination, and anti-harassment training annually for three years, and management will have to take unconscious bias training for three years. The former supervisor, who is not employed at the bakery anymore, will also have to take anti-bias training.

A public relations representative for the bakery released the following statement Thursday:

“For the past two years, White’s Bakery has vehemently fought false allegations that the bakery’s owners in any way tolerated workplace discrimination against a former employee. White’s Bakery is a responsible, progressive employer that has always opposed discrimination of any kind. We always embrace people for who they are. We do everything possible to operate on the basis of respect, understanding, and dignity. White’s Bakery denies any wrongdoing or liability in connection with claims brought by the AG’s office. In an effort to move forward without the continued burden, stress, distraction and substantial financial obligations that accompany litigation, White’s Bakery reached a settlement with the AG’s office.”

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