Don’t Get ‘Uppity’ in Dallas

     DALLAS (CN) – Two black employees sued a Dallas law firm, claiming it humiliated them by serving them fried chicken and red soda after denying their request for time off for the Juneteenth holiday.
     Erica Cornelius and Julius Jackson sued Eberstein & Witherite LLP, B.A. Eberstein and Amy K. Witherite, in Dallas County Court.
     Juneteenth – the 19th of June – is the day on which news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas.
     “In June 2012, Eberstein & Witherite, LLP’s management team, made up of white employees, decided to ‘celebrate’ Juneteenth, the day to commemorate the abolition of slavery in Texas, by serving up friend chicken and Big Red soda to its handful of African American employees only,” the complaint states.
     “A black employee that [sic; recte: had?] asked the firm’s white human resources manager to take the day off to commemorate the ending of slavery. The HR manager wrote back in the vernacular of African Americans, ‘Ya’ll don’t need no day off. Ya’ll need to work.’ The same human resources manager complained, ‘I’m sick and tired of black women bitching about being the victim’ and that she was ‘tired of hearing that shit all the time.’ Julius Jackson, an African American male, complained to a firm partner about the humiliating Juneteenth incident. After he objected to the racist incident, he was the subject of retaliation and reprimanded for acting ‘superior’ (e.g. code for being an ‘uppity black male’).” (Parentheses, but not brackets, in complaint.)
     Amy Witherite, a founding partner, denied the allegations in a statement to KDFW-TV.
     “This firm has been built upon core values of diversity and an inclusive workplace, and we will strongly defend ourselves against these unfair and untrue accusations of discrimination,” Witherite told the TV station.
     Plaintiff Cornelius “was hired one day after the Juneteenth incident,” the complaint states. “She was repeatedly quizzed by the same human resources manager about her ethnic background, who opined that Ms. Cornelius wasn’t 100 percent African American. She told Erics, ‘I don’t even know if you’re black.’ On another occasion, the HR manager told her, ‘Oh no. You’re not going to have that mad, bitter black attitude with me.'”
     Jackson says in the complaint that Linda Weir, the firm’s white human resources manager, told him on his sixth day on the job – June 19, 2012 – that “she wanted to order fried chicken and red soda for Mr. Jackson and the firm’s other black employees.”
     Weir is not named as an individual defendant. The complaint continues: “Ms. Weir continued and told Mr. Jackson she had confirmed blacks actually prefer red soda over Kool-Aid because she had spoken with several ‘rich black people.’
     “Linda Weir then spoke with several other black employees, seeking confirmation from these employees that blacks like to eat fried chicken and red soda to celebrate Juneteenth and the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.”
     Jackson says he complained to partner Brian Eberstein about the incident and was retaliated reprimanded for acting “superior,” which Jackson interprets as acting like an “uppity black male.”
     The plaintiffs say they were fired in August 2012 within two days of each other for not being “happy.”
     Cornelius claims she suffered a miscarriage two weeks later and had been subjected to unwarranted criticism after she disclosed her pregnancy to the defendants.
     Eberstein & Witherite specializes in motor vehicle accident claims, according to its website.
     The plaintiffs seek actual and punitive damages for race, gender and pregnancy discrimination and violations of the Texas Labor Code.
     They are represented by William Reid of Dallas.

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