Class Action: Restaurant’s Hiring Is Fishy

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has filed a class action against McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants Inc. over the chain’s alleged practice of favoring whites for front-of-the restaurant jobs, such as serving, hosting or bartending.

According to the suit filed Thursday in Northern District Court, minorities and African-Americans at the restaurant are for the most part hired to do low-paid menial jobs in which they do not interact with the public. Name plaintiffs in the suit include Berkeley resident Juanita Wynne, an African-American whose server shifts were cut in half at the local Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley, and Oakland resident Dante Byrd, who was rejected after he applied for a position as a bartender there.

“The McCormick lawsuit falls into that pattern where you have major employers having very loose selection criteria,” says Lieff partner Bill Lann Lee. “When that happens it opens the door to stereotyping.”

The suit is the latest in a string of discrimination suits filed over subjective hiring criteria, such as relying on interviews. Others include the sex discriminations suits filed against Wal-Mart and Costco, and the racial discrimination suits filed against FedEx Express.

Lee says increased use of subjective criteria on the part of employers is contributing to the growing number of these suits. For instance, the suit against Costco faults the company for not posting store manager or assistant manager jobs.

Other plaintiff lawyers in the suit include attorneys from The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of The San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland-based Lewis Feinberg Renaker & Jackson and LaFayette & Kumagai.

Marie-Anne Hogarth

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