Former Taco Bell employee's racial discrimination suit dismissed

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 15, 2015

HUNTINGTON – A lawsuit against Taco Bell alleging a former employee was discriminated against for reporting racial slurs was removed to federal court, where it was dismissed.

District Judge Robert C. Chambers filed an order dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice. The parties have represented to the court that all matters have been resolved, according to the order.

A joint motion to dismiss was filed by James Pratt and Taco Bell stating that the parties had come to a resolution and moved for the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Taco Bell, in its notice of removal, stated that the amount in controversy exceeded the sum or value of $75,000 and, because Taco Bell's principal place of business is in Kentucky, it also satisfies the diversity of jurisdiction requirement.

Pratt filed the lawsuit in Cabell Circuit Court, citing retaliatory discharge.

Pratt, who is black, claimed he was hired by Taco Bell at its Kanawha City location in 2011 and, after two promotions and raises, he requested a transfer to the Barboursville location in 2013 to accommodate his upcoming marriage.

Pratt claimed at the new location, he was the only African-American employee and experienced racial slurs and jokes made by coworkers, but when he reported it to his supervisor, no action was taken.

Pratt stayed because he needed to support his family but he reported the discrimination to Taco Bell's corporate office in April of this year, according to the suit.

The lawsuit states two of the employees who had discriminated against Pratt were discharged but the discrimination continued with the other workers, so Pratt made another report four days later.

There was an alleged investigation but the workers denied making racial slurs, so the defendant, through its agents, told Pratt there was nothing they could do, according to the suit.

Pratt said that on July 29, he requested that a coworker not smoke on the premises and she responded by pushing him to the floor and blowing smoke in his face.

That afternoon, the lawsuit says, Pratt's supervisor accused him of using alcohol on the premises, which Pratt denied and invited the defendant to test him for the presence of alcohol. Pratt says the defendant refused and fired him.

Taco Bell is accused of retaliatory discharge, discrimination based on race, negligent infliction of emotional distress and outrage.

Pratt was seeking actual damages for lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages for humiliation and distress, punitive damages, interest and attorney fees. He was represented by attorneys Hoyt Eric Glazer, Benjamin Sheridan and Mitchell L. Klein of Klein, Sheridan and Glazer in Huntington.

Taco Bell is represented by Joseph M. Price, Benjamin W. Price and David S. Russo of Robinson & McElwee PLLC.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:14-cv-27207

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