Sep 14, 2023 - Economy

Sweetgreen execs ignored Black employees' racism complaints, lawsuit alleges

A Sweetgreen employee cutting up vegetables at a store in Boston in 2017.

A Sweetgreen employee cutting up vegetables at a store in Boston in 2017. Photo: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

At least 10 Sweetgreen workers filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the quick-serve salad chain, alleging they faced racial discrimination and sexual harassment at seven of its New York City restaurants.

Why it matters: The workers, who are Black, said their complaints to the company's upper management and human resources department were ignored for years.

  • The lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court in the Bronx, amended a pervious lawsuit issued in March on behalf of two plaintiffs. The new filing alleges that managers and other employees at the stores used the N-word and other derogatory terms daily to refer to Black workers.
  • It also alleges that female workers also experienced inappropriate touching and comments.

Of note: Two Sweetgreen "head coaches," the company's term for general managers, were also named as defendants.

What they're saying: "For too many Black employees, having to listen to managers and co-workers use racial slurs is just a part of their daily work environment. That's both wrong and illegal," said Avi Mermelstein, the plaintiff's lawyer, in a statement.

  • "Being exposed to constant harassment creates a hostile and psychologically unsafe work environment and companies simply must do better to protect their employees," said Mermelstein, a partner with the employee litigation firm Arenson Dittmar & Karban.

A Sweetgreen spokesperson said the company was unable to comment on pending legal matters.

  • "We take these accusations seriously and do not tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions," the spokesperson said.

Go deeper: Fast-food chains under fire for false advertising claims

Read the lawsuit:

Go deeper