Alabama Car Wash to Clean Out Alleged Race Bias, Pay $225K (2)

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By Patrick Dorrian

Car Wash Headquarters Inc. will pay $225,000 and revise its promotions policy to end a lawsuit by the federal government alleging repeated race discrimination at the company’s Birmingham, Ala., facility.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based company, which does business nationally as Mister Car Wash and Mister Hotshine, failed to promote Antonio Purdom and a group of other employees in Birmingham into supervisory positions because they’re black, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in its March 2017 lawsuit. Less qualified or unqualified white workers were promoted instead, and black employees were sometimes forced to train them, furthering the bias, the EEOC said.

“The EEOC will continue to hold employers who limit employees’ advancement based on race accountable for such discriminatory conduct,” Marsha Rucker, the commission’s regional attorney for its Birmingham District Office, said in a July 9 statement announcing the settlement. “This comprehensive settlement will ensure that promotion and other employment decisions are based on an individual’s qualifications and not race,” she said.

Car Wash Headquarters didn’t admit to liability on any of the EEOC’s allegations by entering into the settlement, the agreement states. The company reiterated that denial in a July 10 statement provided to Bloomberg Law, saying it settled with the EEOC to “avoid the expense of further litigation.”

“We took the allegations claimed in this lawsuit very seriously and we stand by our position that Mister Car Wash® did not and does not make employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information,” Lisa Funk, general counsel for Mister Car Wash, said. “We are satisfied to put this case behind us so we can move forward confidently and proudly as an Equal Opportunity Employer.”

New Promotion Policy Must Be Shared With Workers

The agreement was signed July 9 by Judge Abdul K. Kallon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. It requires Car Wash Headquarters to implement a promotion policy designed to ensure that black employees are provided equal employment or promotion opportunities, including creation of a process for promotion to supervisor or manager, or for enrollment in the company’s “management in training” program.

The revised policy must be disseminated to every employee, supervisor, and manager in Alabama. The policy further requires the company to tell an employee why he wasn’t selected for a promotion if the employee asks, and it must include a provision explaining how an employee can file a complaint if he feels a promotion decision was infected with bias.

Car Wash Headquarters will also provide anti-discrimination training to managers and other employees in Alabama annually for three years.

Purdom will receive $85,000 of the settlement amount. The other $140,000 will be used to establish a class relief fund for other black employees the EEOC believes were similarly subjected to the alleged discriminatory promotion practices. The names of those workers will be communicated by the EEOC to company executives on a confidential basis.

“Federal law mandates that promotions should be made based on qualifications, not demographic categories,” District Director for the Birmingham District Office Bradley Anderson said in the EEOC’s statement. “The EEOC will continue to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws so that all employees, regardless of their race, will have the same equal employment opportunities.”

The company said it offers all of its employees “a positive work environment that is full of opportunity for learning and growth.” The recruitment, hiring, and promotion of “top talent” is integral to providing Mister Car Wash customers with “the best service possible,” the company said.

EEOC attorneys Alysia D. Franklin, Christopher Woolley, and Gerald L. Miller also represented the commission. Courtney C. Morman, Jay D. St. Clair, Jennifer F. Swain, and Patrick D. Schach of Littler Mendelson P.C. represented Car Wash Headquarters.

The case is EEOC v. Car Wash Headquarters, Inc., N.D. Ala., No. 2:17-cv-00503, consent decree signed 7/9/18.

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