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Former Manager Alleges Prejudice At Red Lobster

Haghneviss charges company with race, religion discrimination

Oct 15, 2004 | Texarkana Gazette

A former restaurant manager is suing Red Lobster Tex Inc. based on what he perceives to be discrimination.

Shaun Haghneviss of Texarkana, Texas, was general manager of Red Lobster in Texarkana for 7 1/2 years. He last worked for the company on Aug. 12, 2003.

The lawsuit is tied to information picketing at the new Texas-side Red Lobster earlier this year, said Haghneviss' lawyer.

The lawyer for Red Lobster did not return telephone calls made by the Gazette.

"As part of the process of opening a new restaurant in Texas and as a general Red Lobster policy, Shaun was instructed by the Red Lobster management to be looking for 'younger employees,' for their 'energy and fresh blood,'" according to Haghneviss' lawsuit filed in federal court in Texarkana, Texas. "He was advised that older employees should be actively let go and replaced with a younger staff. Shaun resisted these continued instructions because he knew them to be wrong and in violation of federal law, and because several of his best employees were over 40."

Haghneviss, in his lawsuit, argues he was "squeezed out" despite the restaurant's increased profits. He says his restaurant had ranked fifth in the country and had earned the company's "prestigious 'Diamond Club' award."

Haghneviss also believes he was subjected to other discriminatory actions including race, national origin and religion.

Haghneviss argues that the district manager, Alan Polock, stated that Christmas was important to Red Lobster's employees, "but that Shaun would not be able to understand that because it was 'not in his culture' to understand or respect such a thing as Christmas."

Haghneviss is Iranian and Muslim. Polock is Jewish. Haghneviss charges that Polock had issues with the differing faiths. Haghneviss also argues that his cultural background was brought up on several occasions.

"When Shaun took a cell phone call in one of the general management meetings, one of the managers said, 'I guess he is important like Osama bin Laden.'"

Haghneviss said the tense environment within the workplace increased in the wake of 9/11 and that led to Haghneviss leaving the company in what is termed as a "constructive termination."

Her attorney said Haghneviss took his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a right-to-sue letter. This means that while they did not render a finding of discrimination, the commission is allowing Haghneviss to take his beef against Red Lobster to court for a jury to decide.

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