Garren Lovelace Wiki
A 12-year employee of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Kansas alleged in a lawsuit that he was retaliated against for reporting racial and other forms of discrimination against him and others and safety violations at the restaurant.
Garren Lovelace, who is black, had worked as a cook and kitchen trainer at Buffalo Wild Wings for more than a decade when he started noticing problems at the Overland Park location where he was based, according to a suit against Buffalo Wild Wings and its parent company, Inspire Brands, filed in federal court Monday.
Former Buffalo Wild Wings cook alleges in lawsuit that he was retaliated against for reporting racial and other forms of discrimination against him and others and safety violations at the restaurant. https://t.co/PnVByCeEt5
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 22, 2019
Before 2016, Lovelace, 55, had a good working relationship with the company, and had been instrumental in many Buffalo Wild Wings openings, the lawsuit said.
But when he saw a general manager sexually harass a female employee, he felt he had to report it, the suit said. When a new general manager came on board, things got bad for Lovelace, according to the suit.
The suit said Lovelace was subjected to racial comments made by fellow employees, including an assistant general manager once introducing him as “the angry black man.” When Lovelace complained about the comments to his general manager, they were “dismissed as jokes” and no one was punished, according to the suit.
The general manager instead reacted by making “numerous derogatory statements” about Lovelace being overpaid, and complained that he was “old.”
Lovelace also alleged he saw the management make derogatory comments about African American customers and allow servers to deny service to African Americans “or provide them with subpar service.”
When Lovelace reported the offensive comments as well as safety issues, such as failing to take measures to keep food fresh, the management retaliated against him by denying him raises and promotions, assigning him to less favorable shifts and giving him tasks such as bundling trash and cleaning floors even though they were not in his job description as a cook, the suit said.
The general manager would also get angry at Lovelace when he requested extra breaks from working in the walk-in freezer because it triggered his asthma, the suit said.
Garren Lovelace, who worked for @BWWings for 12 years in Kansas, claims racial discrimination & says management encouraged “subpar service” to black customers. Read more about the lawsuit here: https://t.co/lpdpX9Gj25 @HeavySan pic.twitter.com/msbKf1RHAT
— Erin Laviola (@ErinLaviola) May 22, 2019
And when Lovelace started caring for a sick family member and was sometimes late for work, he would be disciplined even though he followed protocol, and younger nonblack employees who also showed up late weren’t punished, according to the suit.
Lovelace told the management he believed he was being “singled out” and “continued to report discrimination, retaliation and hostile working conditions, but his efforts were futile,” the suit said.
He was fired in October 2017 after showing up late for a shift. He alleged in the suit that the management fired him out of retaliation and due to his race, age and disability.
A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson said the company takes Lovelace’s allegations “very seriously” and is conducting an internal investigation. “Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and we have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” the statement said.
Lovelace is seeking $75,000 for lost wages and benefits and mental and emotional distress.
Garren Lovelace Says an Assistant General Manager Referred to Him ‘The Angry Black Man’ & That Other Racially Insensitive Remarks Were Dismissed by Management as ‘Jokes’
Garren Lovelace says that he worked under at least six general managers during his 12 years at Buffalo Wild Wings. In the lawsuit, Lovelace says that he reported a former general manager whom he had allegedly seen sexually harassing and assaulting a female employee.
Lovelace said that he began experiencing problems at work in early 2017 after a new manager, identified as Pat Robben, was hired. An assistant general manager introduced Lovelace to another employee as “the angry black man,” allegedly because of his decision to report the former GM. Lovelace went to Robben about the comment, but no action was taken.
The lawsuit further claims that “under Robben, numerous racial comments were made but would be dismissed as jokes despite Mr. Lovelace’s repeated complaints about the inappropriateness of such remarks. Mr. Lovelace also witnessed management making derogatory comments about African American customers and permit servers to refuse to serve African American employees or provide them with subpar service.”
Lovelace Claims He Was Denied Wage Increases as Retaliation & That the General Manager Described Him as Being ‘Old’ & ‘Overpaid’
Garren Lovelace spoke up when he saw employees fail to follow standard safety guidelines. He says in the lawsuit that he went to management when he saw that “younger employees were not properly rotating products which could lead to defective perishable goods and health concerns.” As referenced above, Lovelace also reported racial comments made toward him and about African-American customers.
But Pat Robben was not receptive to his reports. Lovelace and his attorneys claim that Robben instead expressed anger about Lovelace’s hourly wage and “made numerous derogatory statements about Mr. Lovelace being overpaid.” He also reportedly criticized Lovelace as being “old” and therefore unable to complete tasks quickly. Lovelace added that Robben “would also get angry and complain when Mr. Lovelace requested accommodations for extra breaks from working in the freezer because it triggered his asthma.”
Lovelace said that during this time period, he was denied promotions and pay raises. He also claimed that management pushed him to work less favorable shifts despite his seniority, having been at the restaurant for more than a decade. Lovelace says managers would also ask him to perform tasks such as cleaning floors and bundling trash “despite his status as a senior cook and trainer.”
Lawsuit: Garren Lovelace Followed the Restaurant’s Attendance Policy & Told Management He Felt Unfairly Singled Out For Disciplinary Action
The tension between Garren Lovelace and the Buffalo Wild Wings management came to a head after he began caring for a sick relative. The restaurant had a policy that mandated employees call in if they are going to be late for some reason.
Lovelace says he followed the policy but was disciplined for being late. He claimed in the lawsuit that “other younger and non-African American employees who engaged in similar conduct or behavior did not receive any disciplinary action.”
Lovelace reported his concerns to upper management and told them that he felt singled out. The lawsuit states that “Mr. Lovelace continued to report discrimination, retaliation and hostile working conditions but his efforts were futile.” Buffalo Wild Wings fired him on October 3, 2017, after he arrived late for shift.
Lovelace Claims He Was Discriminated Against on the Basis of Race, Age & Disability
Garren Lovelace initiated legal action against Buffalo Wild Wings shortly after he was terminated. The lawsuit explains that Lovelace “filed a charge of discrimination against BWW with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on May 9, 2018 regarding claims of race, age and disability discrimination as well as retaliation and other unlawful acts.” The commission told Lovelace and his attorney on February 21, 2019, that they had the right to file a federal lawsuit.
Lovelace is alleging discrimination on multiple fronts. He claims that he was singled out and terminated based on his race and age. The suit includes that Lovelace was 52 years old at the time of his firing.
Lovelace alleges that Buffalo Wild Wings violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and that he was discriminated against for having a disability. This part of the lawsuit does not specifically explain Lovelace’s disability, but his attorney is most likely referring to Lovelace’s asthma.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that Lovelace suffered retaliation. He claims the management at Buffalo Wild Wings ignored his complaints of discrimination and that his firing was direct retaliation for coming forward to report issues. Lovelace further accuses the company of fostering a “racially hostile work environment” in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lovelace is asking for damages “in excess of $75,000” for lost wages, court and attorney fees, and “mental and emotional distress” caused by his termination.
Garren Lovelace Now Works as a Trainer & Chef For a Senior Living Company
Garren Lovelace was hired by Spectrum Retirement Communities in March of 2018 as a cook and trainer, according to his LinkedIn profile. He wrote that his job includes traveling to different restaurants around the country to provide training to new management and cooks.
Lovelace wrote that he has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In addition to his experience as a cook, Lovelace says he was previously employed as a youth care worker at a private school in Kansas City, Missouri. He began working for Buffalo Wild Wings in Overland Park, Kansas, in October of 2005.