NY Bakery Fined $25,000 For Telling Applicant No Hire Because She's Black

Getty Images via Daily News
It's been nearly 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but racial equality in the workplace is far from a reality. African-American workers are still on the receiving end of hateful epithets. They're also still twice as likely to be unemployed as White workers, as AOL Jobs has reported. Looking for on-the-ground proof of racism in the workplace? Here's what appears to be one example: Jamilah DeCosta said when she applied for a counter job at the Framboise Patisserie in the New York City borough of Queens back in 2011, she was told by one of the owners, "I can't hire you because you're black."

The 25-year old native of the Rego Park section of Queens applied for the counter job after responding to an ad on Craigslist. And she claims the racist message was delivered directly by bakery co-owner Patty Meimetea during her interview. Shaken by the experience, DeCosta filed a complaint with the city's Human Rights Commission. After an investigation and trial, the commission fined the bakery $25,000. The penalty was also the result of the "counter girl" ad's gender bias excluding men, according to the commission.

A White Face Preferred For Customers
In speaking to New York's Daily News, DeCosta said she was dismissed out of hand by the bakery. "Before I could even pull out my resume or start a formal interview, [Meimetea] was telling me all this negative stuff - she couldn't hire me because I was black, I would scare away her customers," she told the newspaper. DeCosta added she was repeatedly asked about her nationality in the interview.

In speaking to the New York newspaper, Meimetea denied the story. "Of course this is not true," she said. Instead, she claimed, the reason DeCosta was rejected was because the position had already been filled.

But according to DeCosta, the bakery owner had a whole explanation as to why she couldn't tap an African-American to work the counter. She's alleged the owner told DeCosta she'd happily hire her to work in the kitchen if a job were available, as she'd be out of sight. And according to DeCosta, Meimetea said her husband and co-owner AJ Saputhanthri would be angry with an African-American at the counter.

The city's investigation found that Framboise Patisserie had never hired a Black worker in its three years of existence. After the investigation was completed, however, two Black workers have been hired to work at the bakery, according to Saputhanthri. And one is now working at the counter.

According to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United), a nonprofit advocacy group for restaurant workers, racism in the restaurant industry is rampant. Workers of color are paid almost $4-an-hour less than white workers, ROC-United data reveals. Why is the disparity so great? As ROC-United founder Saru Jayaraman previously told AOL Jobs, "There's an expectation that white workers will be better at selling the food."
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