Ten Black men and women are suing Los Angeles-based Sweetgreen in over a half-dozen New York locations, alleging they were subjected to daily use of the N-word by managers and/or co-workers and faced other discrimination in seven different New York stores, according to a press release.
The suit, filed Thursday in New York Supreme Court in the Bronx, also alleges the plaintiffs suffered a pattern of racial discrimination including comments from coworkers, who referred to them on a daily basis as “monkeys,” “gorilla,” “negro,” “negra” and “lazy.” In addition to the harassment, the plaintiffs said managers consistently failed to hire or promote qualified Black employees, claiming Hispanics work harder. The suit claims complaints to Sweetgreen upper management were ignored for years and never addressed.
In addition to racial discrimination, the suit also alleges female employees faced sexual harassment from managers including inappropriate touching, dancing with twerking female subordinates and inappropriate comments to and about female employees and customers.
“For too many Black employees, having to listen to managers and co-workers use racial slurs is just a part of their daily work environment,” Avi Mermelstein, of Arenson, Dittmar & Karban, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in the release. “That’s both wrong and illegal. Being exposed to constant harassment creates a hostile and psychologically unsafe work environment and companies simply must do better to protect their employees.”
In an email statement to FastCasual.com Sweetgreen said it was taking the allegations seriously.
“At Sweetgreen, we are committed to diversity as well as a safe and inclusive workplace. We take these accusations seriously and do not tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions. We are unable to comment further on any pending legal matters,” stated a Sweetgreen spokesperson in an email to FastCasual.com.
Under the New York City Human Rights Law, companies are accountable for their managers’ discriminatory conduct, including participation in a racially or sexually hostile environment and the failure to prevent such an environment when the manager knows about it, according to the release. The New York City Law Human Rights Law, one of the most expansive in the country, does not require an employee to complain about harassment by a supervisor in order for the employer to be held liable.
The suit was originally filed March 13, 2023 with two plaintiffs. The amended complaint filed Thursday points to a wider issue at the company and added eight plaintiffs who said they endured the same or similar behavior in different locations, including 32 Gaansevoort St., 55th Street and Park Avenue, 67 Wall St., 38th Street and Broadway, 71st Street and First Avenue, 67th Street and Columbus Avenue, and 12th Street and University Place.