Beverage Wholesaler and Distributor Refused to Promote Black Employees to Route Sales Positions, Federal Agency Charges
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Birmingham Beverage Co. Inc., dba AlaBev, a Delaware corporation headquartered in Birmingham that operates as a wholesale distributor and importer of beer, cider, alcohol-free drinks and specialty foods, violated federal law when it failed to promote or consider Ronnie Johnson and other African-American employees for a vacant route sales position, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Johnson, a driver supervisor for Birmingham Beverage, applied for a vacant route sales position. Despite six years of exemplary job performance with the company and previous route sales experience, Birmingham Beverage didn't grant him an interview. Instead, the company promoted a white delivery driver with only nine months' experience on the job, whom Johnson supervised. When Johnson asked why he was not promoted or interviewed, the company claimed it forgot to interview him.
The EEOC charges that Birmingham Beverage repeatedly discriminated employees when promoting and hiring for lucrative route sales positions. According to the EEOC, during the past four years, the company has hired or promoted at least 11 white applicants or employees to route sales positions, and no black applicants or employees, to service its 22 routes. The company's two black route salesmen are assigned routes that service predominantly black neighborhoods, while the majority white neighborhoods are assigned to white route salesmen.
The EEOC also alleges that Birmingham Beverage fails to keep announcements of job openings and applications for vacant route sales positions as required by federal law.
Such alleged conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from using race as a factor in making employment decisions. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (EEOC v. Birmingham Beverage Co., Inc d/b/a AlaBev, Case No. 2:17-cv-01651-JEO) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
"Employees should be considered for advancement based on their experience and qualifications, not race" said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. "When the EEOC determines that race has played a role in employment decisions, we will not hesitate to step in and correct unlawful practices."
EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, "It is unfortunate in this day and age there are employers who choose to limit their employees' advancement prospects based on race."
According to company information, Birmingham Beverage has been in operation since 1907 and employs approximately 160 workers.