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Judge Says Panda Express|Class Action Has Merit

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge refused to dismiss a class action brought by black and Latino women who say they were passed over for promotions at Panda Express restaurants because the chain only advances Asian workers.

Angelica De Los Santos claims the Panda Express in Santa Rosa, Calif., where she has worked since October 2006, repeatedly denied her requests for a counter or lead cashier position, and would not provide her with managerial training.

Dasha Bays, who is black, said that in addition being denied promotions at two Panda Express locations in Illinois, she also endured racist remarks. Bays' manager, who is Asian, allegedly said black people "can't be trusted with money," and "black girls have big butts, which makes them slow employees.'"

The third named member of the class, Lucia Salazar, also says she was passed over for promotions at a Panda Express in Crestwood, Ill.

All three women say they saw more advanced positions go to less experienced or qualified Asian workers. They sued Panda Express and Panda Restaurant Group, both based in California.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Brown Armstrong rejected the class' argument that Panda Express refuses to hire other races into managerial positions, but refused to dismiss their claim for refusal to promote.

Armstrong also found the class had sufficiently alleged discriminatory practices and may obtain more evidence through discovery.

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