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Nine current and former African-American employees of Harris Teeter Inc. are seeking a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit against the North Carolina-based chain and its parent, Ruddick Corp., according to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Birmingham, Ala.-based law firm Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins & Childs, a veteran of the $192 million racial discrimination settlement against The Coca-Cola Co. and dozens of others, filed the original complaint in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in January.
But in late August, the firm filed a motion seeking class-action status, a move that could raise the stakes by taking the number of plaintiffs from nine to potentially thousands and pushing the potential damages into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Harris Teeter case alleges racial discrimination against nine employees -- seven in Atlanta, one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina.
Harris Teeter spokesperson Jessica Graham said Harris Teeter absolutely prohibits discrimination of any kind and went on to quote the official company policy but wouldn't speak directly to the allegations. A Ruddick spokesperson referred calls to Graham.
The lawsuit alleges that Harris Teeter prevented African-Americans from learning about or competing for opportunities in jobs traditionally held by white employees; discouraged African-Americans from applying for positions and/or seeking promotions and/or transfers into jobs traditionally held by white employees; subjected African-Americans to discriminatory selection, compensation and advancement procedures; subjected African-Americans to disparate disciplinary policies, practices and procedures; and subjected African-Americans to a racially hostile work environment.
While the question of discrimination will be answered at trial (or possibly settled beforehand), Judge Julie E. Carnes must first decide whether to grant the case class-action status.
Lead plaintiff's attorney Timothy Fleming of Gordon, Silberman isn't pessimistic but he is concerned about gaining class-action status, according to the article.
"I don't want to put odds on it, [but] it is certainly going to be an uphill battle" he said