Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Twenty-one people filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against Cracker Barrel restaurants Thursday, accusing the nationwide chain of widespread racism, from segregating black customers in the smoking section to denying them service. It was the largest civil rights lawsuit against a restaurant chain since Denny’s settled a $46 million discrimination lawsuit in 1994. The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in Rome, Ga., accuses Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., based in Lebanon, Tenn., of systematic discrimination and documents acts of alleged racism in 175 cities in 30 states. The restaurant chain, which for years has been known for its country store motif and homestyle cooking, owns and operates a chain of 450 restaurants in 37 states. Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis said the charges are false and that the company responds to the concerns of all customers. “Our mission is pleasing people and that means all people,” she said. “We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” The plaintiffs are represented by one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms, Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins & Childs, based in Birmingham, Ala. “The descriptions of the treatment endured by African-American customers in these restaurants is appalling,” said attorney David Sanford. “It can’t be the case that Cracker Barrel doesn’t know about it,” he told a news conference Thursday. “We have enough evidence right now to suggest that Cracker Barrel, to the very highest level, is responsible.” Much of the lawsuit focuses on the statements of black customers, recounting how they were forced to wait while white customers were promptly seated. In one such case, Chandra Harmon, a resident of Smyrna, Ga., says she arrived at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Chattanooga, Tenn., at 9:48 p.m. and was told by a server that the restaurant was about to close. At 10 p.m., Harmon watched as four white men were allowed into the restaurant. Through the window, she saw them eating and drinking. “We had hungry children and he still refused to serve us,” Harmon said of the incident in July, referring to the manager. Later, the manager insisted the men were seated before Harmon arrived. “There are perhaps thousands more African-Americans who have been denied service, treated rudely by servers and hosts, and subjected to racial slurs at Cracker Barrel restaurants,” said Grant Morris, another attorney. “This is the tip of the iceberg.” The lawsuit also draws upon the statements of Judith Robertson, a former executive coordinator at Cracker Barrel’s headquarters in Lebanon, Tenn. Robertson, who is white, was responsible for responding to complaints made by customers on the company’s hot line. In a statement, Robertson says the company received 300 calls describing discrimination against minority customers, many more than received by other customers. She said those calls were often discussed, and then dismissed casually, by Cracker Barrel managers. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.