Current Affairs

Lesbian accuses bosses of homophobia

PinkNews Staff Writer February 14, 2006
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A lesbian is accusing her bosses of discrimination after she says they did nothing after she was groped by co workers and verbally assaulted over her sexuality.

Bonnie Usher worked at the Cracker Barrel restaurant, a home country food chain, in Londonderry, New Hampshire. She filed a complained with the state’s human rights commission against the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store accusing management of discriminating against her.

Ms Usher, who joined the restaurant as a cook in 2000, said she was groped by a colleague, propositioned sexually and subjected to abusive language. She alleges that she missed out on better shifts and promotions because she was a woman and that a picture of a co-worker allegedly grabbing her on the buttocks was hung in the employee break area for a weekend.

The complainant is seeking unspecified monetary damages and an order that the restaurant be forced to offer sensitivity and management training to its staff. Ms Usher stayed at the restaurant until 2004, when she believes she was fired for complaining about the way she was treated.

Company officials told a state investigator, Linda Chadbourne, that they had not discriminated against Usher and gave a copy of the company’s anti-discrimination policy to the commission.

Cracker Barrel spokesman Jim Taylor told the Associated Press that the company wasn’t aware of all of Usher’s complaints, but that the company disputes the accusations and will make its case to the commission.

Ms Chadbourne concluded that Usher’s claim has merit and that local management at the chain restaurant did not respond to her complaints.

The company was accused during the early 1990s of dismissing some gay workers when a Cracker Barrel executive’s memo was leaked saying managers should fire employees who didn’t “demonstrate normal heterosexual values” sparked protests from gay rights groups. The memo was eventually renounced and Cracker Barrel adopted policies protecting gay employees.

In 2004, Cracker Barrel agreed to pay $8.7 million to settle federal lawsuits in Georgia that alleged black customers were subjected to racial slurs, denied service or segregated in smoking sections.

Cracker Barrel has already previously been ordered to improve its employee diversity training, create a new department to investigate discrimination complaints and hire an outside expert and testing company to make sure it complies with the settlement.

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