Trouble Brews for Boston Coffee Shop Facing Discrimination Probe

Boston business attorneys know that every employer walks a fine line you walk it wants to hire the right people for the job, and yet steer clear of discrimination claims. cappaccino.jpg

When claims of employment discrimination in Boston are alleged, there can be any number of reasons: A disgruntled job prospect who didn’t make the cut, or an employee who wasn’t preforming well can result in an unfair claim. In other cases, a manager or supervisor’s actions may pose a liability to the company.

It’s rare that the government will simply launch an investigation of its own accord, and yet that is what’s happening at Marylou’s Coffee chain. The java joint is well known for hiring attractive, young women. Unfortunately, this has caught attention from more than just the potential customers. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched an investigation into the business’s hiring practices. The agency is working to determine whether the coffee shop discriminates based on age and gender.

The probe actually began a year ago and is still ongoing. No formal charges have been filed, and the owner, Karen Anderson, maintains that she has had to spend thousands of dollars defending herself. She recently penned a letter to state senators, imploring them to intervene and provide her with relief, saying the entire investigation is a “witch hunt.”

She says that while the branding is pink and the majority of her hires are young women (always looking for the “perkiest”), that’s not even close to clear-cut evidence of discrimination. Rather, she said male baristas simply don’t apply.

Senator Bob Hedlund, a regular customer of the coffee house, was quoted by the local CBS affiliate as saying, “I don’t know how many old white fat men have applied at Marylou’s to wear pink shirts to serve coffee.”

The employee uniforms involve pink shirts and black shorts or pants.

The federal agency began by requesting employment applications dating back several years. Investigators are also quizzing current and former employees about the age, race and body-types of their co-workers, as well as pressing the company’s management for answers on hiring practices.

The business was founded in Hanover back in 1986 – to percolating success. There are now nearly 30 locations throughout Massachusetts and even into Rhode Island.

The Patriot-Ledger reports that the owner conceded she had received complaints about her television ads, which showed young female employees in shorts on the beach. However, she is steadfast in her position that she simply hires the people she believes will be the best fit for the business.

The Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin or sex.

A case like this is somewhat rare because it is usually women who argue that they have been the target of workplace discrimination, either due to pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment or some other sex-based bias.

A Boston employment law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC,
has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation,
call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.

Additional Resources:
Federal official defends discrimination probe of Marylou’s coffee shop chain, Staff Report, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Boston Business Attorneys Must Be Aggressive When Facing Down Government, May 21, 2012, Boston Business Lawyer Blog

Boston Bar Assosiation