Trader Joe’s Co. was sued for racial discrimination by two Black women who allege they experienced racial discrimination while working at company stores in Atlanta and then found many of the same conditions after transferring to locations in Southern California.
Josey Chappell, co-represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, and Angel Robertson brought their Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuits on Dec. 13, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A representative for Monrovia-based Trader Joe’s did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Chappell was hired as a crew member at a Trader Joe’s store in Atlanta in January 2020 and transferred to a location on National Boulevard near Palms on June 22 of this year, according to the suit.
Having already experienced racial discrimination on the job at the Atlanta store, Chappell encountered some of the same attitudes after at the National Boulevard locations, where she was subjected to derogatory comments against Black persons, received harsh treatment, was given undesirable and difficult tasks and — unlike non-Black employees — was heavily scrutinized for work errors, the suit alleges.
During the last hour of the closing shift on Sept. 6, the store loudspeaker played music that relentlessly included use of the “N-word” for more than an hour, the suit states.
A fellow employee, referring to a customer’s purchases, told Chappell, “Oh, look Josey, chicken and watermelon,” the suit states.
Chappell was once again treated adversely by colleagues after a late September transfer to the Westchester store and so she was moved to the Culver City store in October after a discussion of her complaints with a Trader Joe’s regional vice president, the suit states.
However, Chappell continued to experience “discriminatory, aggressive, harassing, hostile and retaliatory treatment” despite several store transfers and her providing documentation of her experiences in each, the suit states.
“Ms. Chappell firmly and justly believed that transferring to yet another Trader Joe’s location would not sufficiently prevent the ongoing retaliation and harassment that she consistently faced at every Trader Joe’s store” and she resigned Nov. 2, the suit states.
The 23-year-old Robertson was hired as a crew member at a Trader Joe’s store in Atlanta in November 2019 and on July 21 transferred to the National Boulevard store, where she initially received numerous compliments praising her work ethic from her supervisors and store manager and was considered for a promotion from crew member to order-taker, the suit states.
However, the work environment changed when the store manager wrote a poor work evaluation for Robertson and made it available to all store supervisors, according to the suit.
“Plaintiff’s once peaceful and progressive work environment … was suddenly transformed into a tense and hostile workplace,” the suit states. “Plaintiff, once praised by her superiors, was routinely ignored and subjected to varying shift changes and longer hours without notice or reason.”
Robertson was abruptly assigned tasks that required heavy lifting and her training to be an order-taker stopped, the suit states.
“The same supervisors who had once praised plaintiff for her work ethic incessantly harangued plaintiff with unnecessary questions about her job responsibilities and micro-managed her in such a way as to cause her humiliation and discomfort,” the suit alleges.
Robertson, who suffered mental and emotional stress as well as chronic back pains, resigned because of the work conditions on Aug. 9, the suit states.