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NAACP Seeks Class Action In Discrimination Case Against Cracker Barrel

ATLANTA (AP) -- The NAACP says Cracker Barrel denies promotions to black employees, keeping most of them in "back of the house" jobs in the kitchen, out of customers' sight.

Kweisi Mfume, president of The National Association for the Advacement of Colored People, announced Tuesday that the civil rights organization has joined the lawsuit and asked for class action status.

The racial discrimination lawsuit claims Cracker Barrel denies blacks desirable jobs, promotions, training and management positions. The suit also alleges that Cracker Barrel tolerates, and sometimes supports, racist comments and behavior.

The suit was filed in July in the Rome division of the U.S. District Court on behalf of 12 current and former employees, five of whom worked in a Dalton Cracker Barrel.

A companion case, also filed in the Rome court, claims Cracker Barrel does not pay servers minimum wage for performing non-serving duties.

Cracker Barrel, a 391-restaurant chain based in Lebanon, Tenn., denied the allegations.

Norm Hill, senior vice president of human resources, said the company -- with 40,000 employees -- has strict equal employment policies.

"While we cannot yet discuss the details of all the claims that have been made since these charges are so new, we are confident that what will become clear is that the claims are way off base and present a highly distorted picture of our company," he said.

Hill said about 12.5 percent of the company's full- and part-time employees and 7 percent of the approximately 2,500 managers are black.

In 1991 the company fired several employees based on a policy banning homosexual workers. The policy was rescinded after gay-rights groups protested.

The racial discrimination lawsuit claims Cracker Barrel denies blacks desirable jobs, promotions, training and management positions. The suit also alleges that Cracker Barrel tolerates, and sometimes supports, racist comments and behavior.

The plaintiffs want the court to require Cracker Barrel to restructure its hiring and paying procedures, reimburse attorneys' fees and pay employees back wages.

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