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Whole Foods accused of workplace discrimination and harassment

Many Massachusetts readers may be familiar with the Whole Foods grocery store chain as a place to purchase organic groceries. A former employee of the grocer in another state alleges that he was fired for speaking out against the workplace discrimination he was receiving from his co-workers and one of his supervisors. He claims that he was the victim of the harassment because of his national origin.

The plaintiff began working for the company in 2007 and was promoted to an assistant team leader; he alleges that the harassment began several months later. The first incident was a toy pig that had a string around its neck purportedly found on the plaintiff's desk. Sometime later, he found another toy pig with a string tied around its neck hanging from his monitor. The man took a picture of the scene with his phone and showed it to his supervisor, but he claims that instead of having his complaints investigated, he was told he was not permitted to take pictures inside his office and was ignored.

The situation apparently worsened, and the abuse began to include racial remarks and veiled threats from his co-workers and one of his supervisors. Allegedly, even after he had reported the harassment multiple times, there was no record of the complaints on his employment record. He claims that he reached out multiple times to different superiors, but he was only encouraged to stop discussing the harassment.

When the plaintiff was finally given the opportunity to speak directly to the director of human resources, he thought he was going to be able to tell his story, but he was apparently fired instead. After receiving a right to sue from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the plaintiff went forward with his case against Whole Foods in a federal court. He is accusing the company of workplace discrimination and harassment that violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Whole Foods stated in an email that the company respects all of its team members and does not tolerate employment discrimination. Complaints of discrimination in the Massachusetts workplace are to be taken seriously, and employees who feel they are being ignored may consider discussing their options with a lawyer well versed in employment laws.

Source: bangordailynews.com, "Worker sues Whole Foods for racial discrimination at Maine store", Darren Fishell, Nov. 23, 2015

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