The Shocking Reason Kraft Heinz Is Being Sued For $30 Million

If claims made by three former employees of a Tulare, California cheese-making plant are true, Kraft Heinz tolerated an environment of racial discrimination for years at the facility. According to a press release from the law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp, the three former employees sued Kraft Heinz on August 19, seeking at least $30 million in damages for wrongful termination and extreme mental, emotional, and physical distress. Lawyers for Alex Horn, Lance Aytman, and Keith Hooker claim that Kraft Heinz fired the three workers illegally after they had asked for an investigation of racist slurs, vandalism, and death threats at the plant.

According to the press release, which outlines the lawsuit, Horn, Aytman, and Hooker heard racist slurs and stereotypes in casual conversation. The lawsuit also claims Black employees found swastikas drawn on their lockers and threatening notes that told them to "quit or die."

"Kraft Heinz is recognized all over the world as an all-American, family-friendly brand," an attorney for the former employees said. "Unfortunately, for our clients, Kraft Heinz symbolizes virulent racism, harassment, and intolerance given what they experienced at the Tulare plant." A spokesperson for Kraft Heinz sent this statement to Mashed: "While we don't comment on ongoing lawsuits, we constantly strive to create diverse and inclusive workplaces."

The lawsuit claims Kraft Heinz managers retaliated against Black employees who complained of racism

Last year, Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio published a forceful statement on the company website, saying that Black lives matter. Patricio said systemic racism in the U.S. led to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. "We have a duty to be part of the solution," he said, "even as we are honest about where we as a company have fallen short." Patricio promised to expand opportunities for Black employees and to offer training to help employees overcome unconscious racial biases.

The law firm's press release claims the three former Kraft Heinz employees in Tulare, California suffered a type of systemic racism within the company. After the employees complained about acts of racism from coworkers, managers gave them less desirable work and told them to "keep their heads down or else they could join the unemployment line," according to their attorneys. The coverup of racism at the Tulare plant might have gone all the way up to the corporate office, according to the press release. The ex-employees' attorneys say a manager had told them that corporate advised against investigating their complaints, for fear of disgruntling employees.

The Tulare plant, which made mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, is no longer part of Kraft Heinz, according to The Business Journal. The company sold the facility and two others to a French company in 2020, after the events claimed in the lawsuit.