EEOC Settles Skin Color Discrimination Suit

August 7, 2003 ( - A national restaurant chain has agreed to pay a former server $40,000 to settle charges in a federal court lawsuit that the dark-skinned African American server was discriminated against by a light-skinned African American manager.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the settlement with Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, an international restaurant company headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas.

Plaintiff Dwight Burch complained in the suit that he was fired when he threaten to take his complaints about the treatment he said he received from his African American manager to Applebee’s headquarters office. Burch alleged that the store manager had consistently made derogatory remarks to him about his dark skin color.

Burch began working for an Atlanta, Georgia Applebee’s on December 16, 2000. The store manager, assigned to the facility on January 1, 2001, terminated Burch on March 26, 2001 – less than 90 days after his arrival at the restaurant, according to the EEOC.

“It is important that employers realize that ‘color’ is a separate protected basis under Title VII,” Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in a statement. “Employers violate federal law when they discriminate based on color, including the harassment of employees because of their respective skin colors.”

According to the EEOC announcement, the commission has observed an increasing number of color discrimination charge filings at agency field offices across the country. Color bias filings have increased by over 200% since the mid-1990s from 413 in fiscal year 1994 to 1,382 in FY 2002. The majority of charge filing last fiscal year were in the Northeast (44%), followed by the West (21%), South (15%), Midwest (12.5%), and Southwest (7.5%).