Former Founders Brewing Co. Employee Files Lawsuit Alleging Racial Discrimination

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Todd, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,609) Aug 23, 1996 California
  2. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (250) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    7 out of 200. Shocking but not shocking.( One of the PDFs mentions out of 200 employees, a mere 7 are minority).

    The Caucasian frat boy culture is definitely a big majority all around America.

    That's basically 4% of their work force for an area that is 21% black. But that's just Grand rapids. Detroit is 40% black yet had a mere handful of workers?

    This one looks ugly.
  3. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,457) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    There are always 2 sides to a story, but the general anecdotes cited in the article are not in the least bit surprising generally speaking. Founders brewing wouldn't be the first brewery to have an issue like that and they (sadly) won't be the last. Disappointing to see Founders involved in this as I'd expect more from them.
    kevanb, russpowell, HermitDan and 7 others like this.

    THANAT0PSIS Crusader (764) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

    Yeah, this looks grim for them from a PR standpoint no matter how the lawsuit shakes out, and it's pretty disappointing to me personally. I'm not the biggest Founders fan, but I do enjoy a fair amount of their non-IPA beers. They just seem totally blind and living in the past with how this situation was treated internally.

    Tangential to this is Founders not pulling out of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce despite a Tweet saying they would. The reason this is controversial is that the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is supporting Bill Schuette for governor, a person who has openly fought against equal rights for LGBTQ people. Founders claiming the GRACoC is progressive and supportive of LGBTQ rights doesn't really line up with this and seems like a bald-faced lie at worst, and it just makes the company look backward in another way.
  5. BayAreaJoe

    BayAreaJoe Defender (609) Nov 23, 2017 California

    True, I'll hold off on any more Founders purchases until they put out their spin on how they handled these racial incidents and the termination.
  6. Alefflicted

    Alefflicted Initiate (78) Dec 2, 2017 Minnesota

    I have to agree with you. I really want to hear their side of the story...

    I'm actually a big fan of Founders, but if these allegations of racism are true, then they can go fuck themselves.
  7. MoreBeer4me

    MoreBeer4me Aspirant (272) Aug 25, 2014 New Jersey

    Another mee-too kind of thing. The next thing you know will be one of the owners looking at a female employee crosse eyed. Better get Oprah on this one pronto.
  8. WSchmidt

    WSchmidt Initiate (75) Jul 3, 2011 Virginia

    Wow, what an enlightened opinion! Thanks for sharing!
  9. MoreBeer4me

    MoreBeer4me Aspirant (272) Aug 25, 2014 New Jersey

    Pleased to share the facts with you.
  10. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,281) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Women complaining in public about being raped. Black people filing lawsuits over the use of the n-word at work. What is this country coming to? :rolling_eyes:
  11. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,457) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    Oh I must've missed the "facts" in that post.
  12. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,609) Aug 23, 1996 California

    This Twitter thread attempts to break all of this down a bit:
    Riff, thuey, brutalfarce and 3 others like this.
  13. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (250) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    I think if you use the N word once, that's termination. Or the discipline needs to be very closely checked, monitored, and equally distributed.

    Not that it's close to face to face interactions. But places around here have been known to casually play a workers iPhone or iPod and customers do and can hear not only cussing but the N-a word as well. Perceived sensitivity needs to be upheld to some standard.

    This could get ugly. I'm sure there's proof that some of his claims are true. Guys showing his junk at a company party. That could likely be backed up by photos or witnesses. Same with the printer names.

    What type of state is MI? Firing a four year worker doesn't sound like something that happens often. Most seem happy, quit on their own, or find work else where. A four year worker doesn't hate the culture or work entirely and he himself wasn't the one that quit. This is real bad for Founders. Can of worms opening up now.
  14. BayAreaJoe

    BayAreaJoe Defender (609) Nov 23, 2017 California

    Ok Donald sure we'll get on it.
  15. BayAreaJoe

    BayAreaJoe Defender (609) Nov 23, 2017 California

    The fact that you'd rather have folks who feel they've been done wrong to just shut up and deal with it?
  16. KevinJohnson2

    KevinJohnson2 Disciple (378) Jul 8, 2013 Michigan
    Premium Trader

    I know!! Don’t ya miss the days when women kept sexual assault and harassment to themselves and us white folks could call POC whatever we wanted without reprocussions?!? I mean, MAGA, right?

    Thanks for bringing the “facts” though.
  17. TheGent

    TheGent Meyvn (1,399) Jun 29, 2010 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    This view is pretty out of touch. If you’re referring to this case being possible or existing at all because of the #metoo movement and its spillover into various other industries you are wrong. Sure, there is heightened sensitivity to discrimination nowadays, and these types of claims will increase, but this complaint reads like any other employment discrimination case, and has some bad facts associated with it. The company is responsible for ensuring the allegations in this case do not occur.
  18. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (795) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Yeah, this looks pretty bad. The tweets seem to imply that this guy got hired into packaging and worked for 4 years without a promotion. That’s not very common...
    Only people I’ve seen in that situation are people who are unmotivated and happy with pushing cans for entry-level pay and free beer. That’s totally fine, but it appears this guy was actively applying for jobs. There’s always a bit of favoritism that plays into brewery promotions, but shorter tenured people that you trained getting a job over you is a slap in the face.

    The printer thing is fucked up and totally something I could see happening.

    The number of white to black employees looks bad, but IMHO not necessarily indicative of hiring prejudice. I’ve been a part of brewery hiring and honestly, there is just not a lot of interest in working at a brewery among certain demographics. For every 1 resume from a African or Asian American, or a woman, there were 20 resumes from a white guy. Maybe it’s different elsewhere. For example, there are a ton of Latinos in Chicago craft beer.

    Ultimately, like @FBarber said, there are always two sides to every story. But damn, there are a lot of examples here and when there’s smoke...

    This kind of stuff would be bad enough in a rural US brewery where people aren’t around minorities and subsequently develop some clueless attitudes towards race. But Grand Rapids and Detroit are decidedly NOT those places. To harbor these kinda of attitudes towards your neighbors in totally inexcusable.
  19. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,658) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    The Twitter-verse isn't particularly reliable. In the article there's a link where one can download a copy of both the compaint filed and the Founders response. Those statements paint a bit of a different picture.
  20. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (795) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Yeah, someone else pointed that out to me. Sometimes there’s 3 stories, I guess...:grin:
  21. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,658) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Hmmm, only 3? When social media are involved there can be a lot more. :sunglasses:
  22. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (795) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    3 actual stories. 300 Instagram stories...
  23. Number1Framer

    Number1Framer Initiate (115) Mar 13, 2016 Wisconsin

    Show us in any of your posts on this thread where you shared one thing that comes anywhere even remotely close to fitting the definition of the word 'fact.'
  24. ohiobeer29

    ohiobeer29 Defender (625) Feb 2, 2013 Ohio

    Will be watching this one closely
    HopsAreDaMan likes this.
  25. eldoctorador

    eldoctorador Zealot (551) Dec 12, 2014 California

    If all what the article says it's true, it's pretty bad from Founders.

    This got my head scratching though. Are you suggesting that all jobs should match the local demography?
  26. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (250) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Without trying to over explain myself, yes some jobs. All jobs? Hell no. We aren't talking highly skilled engineering jobs in which there is a higher demographic of a certain race all applying.
    . Brewery work is fairly un skilled with a large area doing grunt cleanup/heavy lifting. Those types of jobs generally follow more closely with an areas general demographics. Think fast food, and restaurants. Unless you're a hooters, so many food service places do follow through with a general law of averages for that areas demographics.

    My area is 40-50% hispanic. It would very odd to not see them working regular jobs. So they are represented fairly close, at least in the serving and grunt work aspect. I still want to say ownership/brewmaster wise, its heavily leaning towards White male domination. Every year, we tend to be getting more diverse. So I'm happy my area is a bit more progressive than the Founders area
    #26 Oktoberfiesta, Oct 8, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
  27. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,387) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Michigan is a right to work state.
    brutalfarce likes this.
  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,345) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    RtoW (i.e., prohibition of the "union shop", a union-employer contract provision that mandates all employees covered must pay union dues) isn't really applicable in this case. Founders is not unionized, is it? Few small "craft" breweries are. (If so, the firing could violate the contract).

    Founders is probably counting on the "At Will" employment provisions:
    which are applicable in every state (but Montana- go figure).

    Of course, one "illegal reason" would be racial discrimination, which would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex and national origin" and likely some Michigan state employment laws, as well.
  29. LambicPentameter

    LambicPentameter Poo-Bah (1,727) Aug 29, 2012 Nebraska
    Premium Trader

    It's always difficult to draw conclusions from a lawsuit like this--that's why the courts review these cases, rather than the legal experts at Beer Advocate.

    That said, I do have some observations:

    If Jones can prove that he was fired or passed over for a promotion specifically because of his race, or because of his attempts to report race-based harassment, then that's extremely bad for Founders. Because whereas the individual incidents with other employees using the n-word, or the racist colloquialisms for the printers are certainly valid forms of discrimination, if a company has appropriate policies and remediation plans in place, it's kind of hard to hold them responsible for individuals being racist shitbirds. But they do have the responsibility to handle those situations appropriately. In Founders' initial response, it sounds like they believe they did appropriately handle those particular aspects of the claim. The fact that they didn't fire the employee(s) in question--assuming it wasn't the same employee both times--doesn't necessarily mean that they haven't met their duty as an equal opportunity employer.

    And while, with all the new and fledgling breweries in the country, it might be understandable that a smaller, newer startup lacks a robust Title VII compliance system in place (not excusable, but understandable), Founders is in no position to rationalize in that way. They are one of the larger craft brewers in the country and if anything, should be modeling appropriate treatment of employees in all aspects.

    But back to the meat of the claim, which is the part about Jones being passed over for a promotion and subsequently terminated based on his race.

    I honestly, find the idea that Founders overtly passed Jones over for a promotion or fired him because he is a person of color unlikely, but the standard for failing to be an equal opportunity employer is much lower than that. I suspect it was one of those situations where he was passed over and ultimately let go because he was one of those "difficult" employees who "made everything about race". Problem is, an employee speaking up about a hostile work environment doesn't make them "difficult", and making hiring/firing decisions based on that employee's supposed "difficulty" is a huge red flag. And it's really easy for white people to claim that people of color focus too much on race, because, by and large, white people aren't constantly reminded of their race in their everyday life. When society is built in a way that treats being Caucasian as the default, it's easy to miss how many things--intentionally or otherwise--*do* have racial undertones.

    Those are the type of systemic roadblocks that keep people of color marginalized, even when there aren't people walking around expressing overt racism. That's the type of shit that leads to a demographic breakdown of having 7 POCs out of 200 employees, even without any specifically discriminatory hiring practices.
    #29 LambicPentameter, Oct 8, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
  30. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (861) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I basically lived Animal House in college. I grew up very lucky, got recruited to play basketball. I pledged a frat, Phi Gamma Delta, and lived a little bit large for a while. I soon discovered these guys and I had very little in common. My helpless friend stepped on the black diamond- which is taboo- and he was assailed by several pitiful frat boys. I punched one guy and quit the frat then and there. These self entitled boys were as sickening then as now. We actually had a Neidermeyer-like ROTC guy that thought he was in charge. He never went to Viet Nam, but lots of my friends did and everything was different after that....,.
    #30 rgordon, Oct 8, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
    beertunes likes this.
  31. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,387) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Yes, I used the wrong term. I saw many get walked out the door back in 2008.
  32. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,113) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    If only half of the allegations are true, this will be settled out of court, and often the conditions of the settlement will include non-disclosure of the terms, if allowed in that state. We may never hear how this really turns out - one of the reasons that companies settle.

    Some will argue that racism and discrimination have decreased, and while I hope this is true, in many cased it is just kept "undercover". Not so much in this case apparently.
    beertunes and FBarber like this.
  33. eldoctorador

    eldoctorador Zealot (551) Dec 12, 2014 California

    You are assuming that different sections of the society have the same interest in working in breweries. That's a pretty big assumption.
    Soneast, EvenMoreJesus and waltari like this.
  34. evilcatfish

    evilcatfish Zealot (586) May 11, 2012 Missouri

    Some thoughts on the matter:

    1. If Founders' knowingly facilitates a racist work environment, and did nothing when complaints were brought to management then fuck them I hope they pay.

    2. If the individual bringing suit is doing so out of animosity for a legit termination, then fuck him. Unfortunately racial discrimination is a real thing, and when people make up false stories hoping for a payday they hurt others who have truly been affected. Any person who does such a thing is true scum.

    3. As far as the employee makeup, I hardly think this is indicative of Founders' hiring practices unless it can be proven they are passing on people based on their race. I'd think it is most likely due to who's applying and their skills for the position in question.

    4. LAST THOUGHT: this thread will probably end up getting locked.
  35. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,457) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    Why? People should be able to behave like adults and follow the guidelines on posting which if they do shouldn’t result in any issues.
    beertunes, GuyFawkes and keithmurray like this.
  36. pjeagles

    pjeagles Initiate (138) May 29, 2005 New Mexico

    It seems like even when a thread like this is going ok, people will still report it because they don't want to read anything challenging, controversial, or where differing opinions may come up. I fully understand that this is a beer website, but how many posts can you read of people saying of the latest release, "Can't wait to get my hands on this one!"
  37. Spaten454

    Spaten454 Disciple (341) Aug 23, 2012 Texas

    I'm neither for or against either side. I'll let the court decide.
  38. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,658) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    All a report does is alert the mods. It's the mods who make a decision about whether or not if a thread has gone way off the rails or deteriorated to name calling and insults and should be locked down. From what I've seen more than once they will often simply do a bit of deleting certain posts so that the general discussion can continue.
  39. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,457) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    Report? Sure whatever - but presumably the mods wouldn't delete the thread unless it was actually going off the rails. I find they are far more likely cull the, uh, more "special" posts.

    Edit: @drtth beat me to making the exact point.
  40. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Disciple (310) Aug 17, 2005 Oregon

    Without knowing the percentage of POC employed at other Grand Rapids area breweries I have a hard time calling this stat "ugly." It could simply be that they aren't applying for those types of jobs

    Semi-related, I spent 10+ years managing a well known bottle shop and beer bar in Portland (which is maybe a bit less diverse than GR, and much less dieverse than Detroit) and participated in the hiring process throughout that time. Out of the literally hundreds of interviews I was a part of over the years, I recall interviewing a grand total of one black dude and one Hispanic dude.

    Oddly enough, the percentage of regulars at the bar that would identify as POC is probably higher than the general population of Portland, but for whatever reason 99.9% of the people who applied for open positions (at least while I worked there) were as pasty white as the average BA user.