By Tom Perkins—Oct. 4 2018
Just days after Founders Brewing Co. decided it’s cool with supporters of state-sponsored homophobia, it’s been revealed that the Grand Rapids-based brewer is being sued in federal court over alleged racial discrimination.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan by Tracy Evans — a black former manager who worked at Founders’ Detroit and Grand Rapids locations — alleges “a racist internal corporate culture” and multiple examples of “blatant” racism were exhibited by some white workers and managers during the nearly four years Evans worked there.
The suit claims that Evans complained to human resources throughout his employment, “but his complaints fell upon deaf ears.” Evans says he was fired as he prepared to make another formal complaint to human resources.
In a statement sent to Metro Times, Founders denied any wrongdoing.
Evans and attorney Jack Schulz are asking for monetary damages to compensate for Evans’ lost wages and how he was treated, and to “disrupt the corporate culture,” Schulz said.
He told Metro Times that while some at Founders treated Evans, 37, “like family,” management didn’t.
“At the end of the day, the evidence is clear. They wanted to keep the management white, they wanted their clientele to be white, and he was treated differently in the time when it mattered the most — when it affected his job,” Schulz said. “When he spoke up about his treatment, it only got worse.”
‘White guy’ and ‘black guy’ printers
Among other accusations leveled in the complaint, Evans said Founders’ management allegedly named two printers the “white guy printer” and the “black guy printer.” Management on the second floor used the “white guy printer,” while general employees on the lower level used the “black guy printer.”
Evans alleged he was passed over for a promotion to two positions in favor of two white coworkers. He said he trained the two white employees and had more seniority than them. The two employees had also been involved in what Schulz called “terminable incidents” just prior to the promotion. One allegedly got drunk at a company party and crashed his car into a parked car, while another allegedly got drunk and “exposed his genitalia to the partygoers,” Schulz wrote.
Schulz noted Evans left the Grand Rapids location in October 2017 for “fresh beginnings” with the company at its then-soon-to-open Detroit taphouse in the Cass Corridor.
Prior to moving, Evans was allegedly approached by a white coworker who asked, “What’s up with Detroit my ni–?” Evans reported the incident to human resources, but the employee remained employed with the company, Schulz wrote.
Similar issues continued after Evans arrived in Detroit, the lawsuit states.
“In one incident, the employees were discussing [black] ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick,” Schulz wrote. “Following [Evans] expressing his views, a caucasian coworker looked at [Evans] and said he needed to explain to [Evans] what it meant to be the ‘head ni— in charge.’ [Evans] immediately expressed his displeasure with the comment, to which the Caucasian coworker reaffirmed his statement.”
The incident was reported to a Founders Detroit general manager, Dominic Ryan, and the employee was written up.
“[Evans] expressed his frustration with the company taking a blind eye to blatant racism against him and allowing an overtly racist culture,” Schulz wrote. “[Evans] also stated that Founders should not allow this to happen. However, nothing was done beyond the write-up.”
Evans alleged that he learned the coworker who made the Kwame comment was overheard making other racist remarks, including a complaint about Founders Detroit’s “dark” clientele — a reference to skin color.
That led Evans to schedule a personal day off on June 1 to drive to Grand Rapids to make a formal complaint with human resources. Evans alleged general manager Ryan urged him not to take a personal day so Evans could finish an ongoing project. Evans said he explained to Ryan that he took the day so he could make a formal complaint with human resources in Grand Rapids, and “stated to GM Ryan that he did not feel comfortable working alongside the employee.”
Evans alleged that he agreed to delay the trip to Grand Rapids, but was called into Ryan’s office on his next shift and fired before he could file the complaint.
Documents filed with the court also note that only seven of around 200 employees at Founders are black, and that Evans was the only black assistant shift leader out of eight.
Read more at the Metro Times.