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Eatery strip search brings up a lawsuit.


Eddie Jewell
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EEOC sues over strip-searches at Krystal

Black ex-workers: Incident began over money missing from white cashier's register

By TAMMY JOYNER

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 02/07/08

A federal agency has sued the former owner of a Krystal restaurant in North Georgia on behalf of three black employees who said they were strip-searched after a white co-worker's cash register was found to be short $100.

The male worker was allegedly ordered to remove all his clothes in the back of the store while the general manager watched. The two female workers were taken to the bathroom and told to strip down to their underwear, the lawsuit alleged.

The three workers were fired when they complained shortly after the incident, which allegedly took place at the Krystal restaurant in Winder, then owned by New Capital Dimensions.

The white employee was not searched. The money was never found.

"I've been doing this a long time and I've never seen anything like this," said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Atlanta, which filed the lawsuit last week after a lengthy investigation of the June 2005 incident.

The lawsuit alleges that the company discriminated against the workers "because of their race and then terminated them from their employment in retaliation for complaining about the discriminatory activity."

An official of New Capital Dimensions, which is based in Milledgeville, defended the company.

"We haven't been served with any papers, and the company is denying any allegations of wrongdoing," said Betty Bertoli, who is listed as the chief financial officer, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's office. "We believe in the court system and that justice will prevail." Bertoli's husband, Richard, the company's chief executive officer at the time, died in December.

Meanwhile, The Krystal Co., the Chattanooga-based franchisor of Krystal fast-food restaurants, distanced itself from the case this week, saying New Capital Dimensions is a "completely separate company."

"The Krystal Company is not a party to this lawsuit," the company said in a prepared statement. "The EEOC's action is against New Capital Dimensions ... and the lawsuit involves actions allegedly taken by employees of New Capital Dimensions, not The Krystal Company. The Krystal Company has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind towards its own employees and it considers the alleged actions at issue absolutely deplorable. They would not only violate The Krystal Company's own policy, but also basic human decency."

The three employees, along with another black worker who also was fired for complaining about the incident, detailed their experiences in a telephone interview this week.

"It scarred me. It's something I have to deal with the rest of my life," said Daphne Hill, 39, who at the time worked as a cook. She now works at a hotel in South Carolina. "I just felt like I had been raped without being touched."

Hill and another woman, Shannon Jackson, 28, said they were ordered, one by one, to strip down to their underwear and bra in a women's bathroom in front of a female manager.

"I said 'Are you serious? Are you for real?'," Hill recalled. "[The manager] said 'yes.' The way they were talking was if we didn't do it we'd lose our jobs."

The general manager, who was not named in the lawsuit, then told them he had "the right to search them."

"As long as we worked for Krystal, he said he had the right to search our purse, our car, us as long as we were on Krystal property," Hill said.

Herbert "Stacey" Hunter said he was forced to strip completely naked in the back of the store in front of the general manager, the man who ordered the strip-searches. Hunter, 41, said he was so "shocked, mad and frustrated" that he left shortly after the incident and never returned.

The restaurant is a walk-up and drive-through outlet, so no customers were in the store at the time of the incident.

"He strip-searched me in front of a store camera," recalled Hunter, who now works in construction. "I was thinking 'this is crazy'. When the money got missing, I was outside working on the billboard."

Meanwhile, the unidentified white cashier whose cash register was in question "violated company policy when she left for the day without having management count down her drawer," the suit alleges. Counting a cash drawer is standard cash-handling procedure.

The woman returned a short time later because she had forgotten her purse. When told of the missing money, the workers said, the woman began crying. The general manager told her: "Don't worry about it. I've got this. You go on home," according to the four black workers. The woman never returned to work after that, the workers said.

The white cashier previously received a written reprimand when money was missing from her cash drawer in a separate, earlier incident, said Dawkins of the EEOC.

"If there was any justification for any type of search, and I'm not saying it was, it should have been the person who violated cash-handling procedures," said Vincent Hill, the EEOC attorney working directly on the case.

The fourth black worker in the lawsuit, 25-year-old Quin Brown, was called in to replace Hunter when he left. After learning about the incident, Brown expressed his disgust to a manager. He was fired a day later.

The lawsuit seeks back pay, interest, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as changes in practices.

In many instances, the EEOC grants people the right to sue their employer directly. In this case, agency attorneys said they "found enough evidence to go forward with a lawsuit" on behalf of the workers.

"Based on facts and circumstance, it was obvious to us that the motivating factor in these searches was race," said Vincent Hill, the attorney working directly on the case.

The Bertolis once owned about a half-dozen Krystal restaurants in Georgia. The Krystal Co. said New Capital Dimensions now holds the franchise to one restaurant in Gray.

The sale of the other restaurants is unrelated to the suit, according to the Bertoli's attorney Sarah Lamar, of Hunter Maclean Exley & Dunn in Savannah. The Winder Krystal now belongs to The Krystal Co.

EEOC officials said the agency tried numerous times to work out a resolution with the company before filing the lawsuit.

"It is correct that there were previous attempts and discussions, but they did not [prove] successful," Lamar said.

The company has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit once it receives it.

Meanwhile, the four workers said they still feel the effects of the incident.

"I'm still kind of really hurt about it," Jackson said. "They should know what they did is very wrong. In the future, I hope they treat their other employees better than they treated us."

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Lawd!!!! I haven't had a fresh white castle burger since I was a kid.

Anon, It isn't legal. Searching property and turning pockets inside out, yes. Strip searches now. It wouldn't have been a EEOC case if they would have subjected the White cashier to the same scrutiny. Then it would have been just and strip search case.

octoslash (2/7/2008)

Sounds more like 'White Castle' than Krystal.:hehe:

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What's most interesting to me about this beyond the strip searching is the white cashier had issues with money coming up short in her drawer before, left work without following company protocol the day of the incident, came back soon after because she forgot her purse, and started crying when someone questioned her about the missing money.

In response, the manager then said "No, I got this..." as she was crying and sent her home...

Oh, and she never came back to work!!

If that's not guilty, I do not know what is...

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Well they got the full wrath of the EEOC. Not because it was racial. Because it was wrong.

MrHughes (2/7/2008)
What's most interesting to me about this beyond the strip searching is the white cashier had issues with money coming up short in her drawer before, left work without following company protocol the day of the incident, came back soon after because she forgot her purse, and started crying when someone questioned her about the missing money.

In response, the manager then said "No, I got this..." as she was crying and sent her home...

Oh, and she never came back to work!!

If that's not guilty, I do not know what is...

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The manager didn't search the white chick and as a result he never found the $100. In a lot of businesses, that will come out of the manager's paycheck, though I'm not sure if that's the case here.

Anyways, this is further proof that bigotry is its own penalty. But yeah, we'll still put up laws that attempt to govern the way people think. :rolleyes:

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When I was in college I worked for Tommie Warren, he was one of the lead counsels for the Shoney's class-action lawsuit and ridiculous stuff like this was happening all the time. In fact, this Krystal situation wasn't nearly as bad as some of the stories that came out of that lawsuit. I was shocked on a daily basis reading the depositions. People were literally modern day slaves, and there were no cut and dry situations where they could just quit because of their treatment. That was probably the hardest to digest because of course a naive college student would think "why couldnt you just quit"?

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This reminds me of the McDonalds teenager who was strip searched by the Manager and her husband and forced to do nude jumping jacks and check of her body orifices. All because a prank caller who posing as law enforcement ordered them to.

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I was falsely accused of something serious when I was 19 and working in fast food. It wasn't thievery, but I could have been fired. I told the district manager to give me a lie detector. He looked shocked and asked, "You didn't do it?"

"**** no" I said.

"And you'd take a lie detector?"

I said, "I'll take it right this minute. Set it up."

He knew **** well I was innocent and I kept my job, and never had to take a lie detector.

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Anon (2/7/2008)
This reminds me of the McDonalds teenager who was strip searched by the Manager and her husband and forced to do nude jumping jacks and check of her body orifices. All because a prank caller who posing as law enforcement ordered them to.

Didnt she sue and recently win like six-figures over this?

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I wouldn't doubt it if the person working the register was so bad that he was off by 100 dollars.

I have a friend who manages a chickfila, and Ive come in to meet him a couple of times after they close to do something afterwards and caught him counting up the drawers. It was honestly scary how far all of the drawers were off.

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octoslash (2/7/2008)

I was falsely accused of something serious when I was 19 and working in fast food. It wasn't thievery, but I could have been fired. I told the district manager to give me a lie detector. He looked shocked and asked, "You didn't do it?"

"**** no" I said.

"And you'd take a lie detector?"

I said, "I'll take it right this minute. Set it up."

He knew **** well I was innocent and I kept my job, and never had to take a lie detector.

Pretty smart move: You knew the SOB was too cheap to spring for the test so there was no he would call your bluff.

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holymoses (2/7/2008)
octoslash (2/7/2008)

I was falsely accused of something serious when I was 19 and working in fast food. It wasn't thievery, but I could have been fired. I told the district manager to give me a lie detector. He looked shocked and asked, "You didn't do it?"

"**** no" I said.

"And you'd take a lie detector?"

I said, "I'll take it right this minute. Set it up."

He knew **** well I was innocent and I kept my job, and never had to take a lie detector.

Pretty smart move: You knew the SOB was too cheap to spring for the test so there was no he would call your bluff.

Well, that.....and I was innocent :w00t:

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This is absolutely deplorable...I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. This manager should be taken out back and repeatedly kicked in the groin till he croaks...but beyond that, what I find most intriguing is that one of the women strip searched, said she was terrified for her safety...my thought is, "It's KRYSTALS!!! Grab your purse, your keys, and walk the **** out...there's a ChikFilA down the road, I'm sure, and it's got better pay and working conditions anyways..."

The racist manager, and anyone that supported him should be severely punished...but this all sounds so surreal...not only because of the strip search demands, but also because of the fact that the employees actually complied with it...:blink:

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They ever heard of a miscount? And not searching the white woman was totally wrong. Searching them period was wrong. The manager should have been fired and told "your late go to your K.K.K. rally".

If they had done it correctly, they would have eaten the money and either installed a camera over the register in the ceiling, and make sure they cash the people out. Those people are going to get some serious $$$$. ;)

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An official of New Capital Dimensions, which is based in Milledgeville, defended the company.

"We haven't been served with any papers, and the company is denying any allegations of wrongdoing," said Betty Bertoli, who is listed as the chief financial officer, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's office. "We believe in the court system and that justice will prevail."

After reading this quote, It seems the company is denying a strip search ever

occurred at all.

"Denying allegations of wrongdoing" would surely mean they're denying having strip searched anyone, as that would be considered an "obvious violation of human rights."

I would like to know if there is any material evidence besides allegations made by

a group of employees against the employer.

If the employer did do something this stupid, and it can be proven beyond a reasonable

doubt, they should definitely pay.

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