Racial discrimination allegations against the Cracker Barrel restaurant parent CBRL Group (CBRL ) are untrue and unfair to all Cracker Barrel employees, the company executives said in a Nashville press conference Thursday afternoon.
“We believe in equal treatment for all,” Donald Turner, CBRL president and chief operating officer, said. “Good service is color blind.”
He confirmed that the company would go to court next year to defend its reputation and prove the allegations false. The 144-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Rome, Ga., is seeking $100 million in punitive damages.
Mr. Turner said the company responds to complaints from customers and takes action “to make things right” and discipline its employees. He said CBRL has already checked into one of the complaints discussed in the lawsuit, which involves a Chattanooga restaurant, and found it was without merit.
Norman Hill, CBRL vice president for human resources, said he was disappointed to hear the claims and that they are “without merit.”
The company maintains 443 restaurants across 40 states and employs 50,000 people.
Mr. Turner said CBRL receives roughly 30 customer racial discrimination complaints per year. All customer contacts are logged and investigated, Mr. Hill said.
As an African-American who “chose to come to Cracker Barrel because of its pleasing-people culture,” Mr. Hill said the new charges “fly in the face of what we do.” He also denied allegations that some customer complaints are being ignored by the company.
Another race discrimination suit filed against CBRL by the same law firm three years ago is still in the discovery stage, Mr. Turner said.
CBRL shares were up 40 cents in late afternoon trading at $29.09. During the last 52 weeks they changed hands as low as $15.69 and as high as $30.
An earlier article was posted on NashvillePost.com with more details about the lawsuit.