In-N-Out Burger, the up-and-coming hamburger franchise nearly revered as much for its biblical, inspirational branding style as it is its tasty menu choices, has been slapped with a class a lawsuit charging the company religiously refuses to hire black employees.
Attorney Joe Young, of the California-based Tidrick Law Firm, served notice on the Irvine headquartered franchise late last week on behalf of clients Alonzo Brown and Carlos Dubose. Filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the suit alleges that in separate instances the men applied for advertised openings, one in Oakland and one in San Francisco, for which they had years of experience, only to be told as they further engaged in the process of formally applying for the openings the company was not at all hiring.
Despite “extensive years of experience,” Brown maintains he was denied a store associate position as recently as last month and Dubose insists he was not hired for either a cleanup associate opening he applied for in July nor a store associate post he likewise expressed his interest in securing a month or so later.
"These are not isolated examples of employment practices or individual decisions," the lawsuit states, noting that of the company’s nearly 300 outlets and thousands of employees “very few are black or over the age of 40,” another demographic the suit alleges is also systematically targeted by company’s apparent policy for such discrimination.
"On the contrary,” added Young, “these incidents are representative of the company's systematic discrimination against the class and in favor of applicants who are under the age of forty and/or not African American. In-N-Out Burger recruits, hires and maintains a work force that is under the age of 40 and/or non-African-American.”
The filing seeks an immediate change in the company’s hiring practices and requests that a judge immediately grant fair and equal back pay and other monetary considerations to individuals who have been unlawfully and unfairly denied hiring opportunities. The suit notes the chain grossed well over $500 million in revenue in its last fiscal year and that both Brown and Dubose are over the age of 40.
In the world of fast food employment, In-N-Out Burger has long been viewed as one of the more attractive options based on its entry-level salaries of $10 per hour, which is well above the California minimum wage of $8 an hour. Full-time associates at In-N-Out also receive benefits packages including medical, vision and dental coverage.
In addition, the company has also endeared itself to many of its most diehard patrons over the years based on its unorthodox practice of decorating its wrappers and cups with such scriptures from the book of Proverbs as “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
As for its apparently ungodly hiring practices, company vice president Carl Van Fleet told NPR due to their comparatively high pay scale, the franchise experiences only roughly half the turnover of its competitors and thus, openings are much fewer and farther between.
“In-N-Out Burger does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race or age in our hiring policies or practices,” added Arnie Wensinger, vice president and general counsel for the franchise.
“We hire from our local communities and our restaurants reflect the demographics of that community,” he added. “The allegations have no basis in fact. The two stores where the plaintiffs apparently applied for jobs have a workforce that is more than 23% African American. The Company will aggressively defend itself against these baseless and irresponsible allegations.”
With that in mind, Steve Tidrick, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, warns the company had best be prepared to address what he deems as its “pervasive policy of discrimination.” On its Tidrick Law Firm homepage, the company has also posted a notice stating: “If you believe that In-N-Out Burgers has discriminated against you because of your race/color, age, or national origin, or to speak with an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, please contact us.”
A family-owned business, the first In-N-Out Burger was opened in 1948 in Baldwin, Ca. and since 1992 has grown to have stores also in such diverse cities as Texas, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. Well over 200 of its locations, however, remain situated across the state of California.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.