LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that Tobacco Superstores, Inc. (TSS) will pay $425,000 and provide significant remedial relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit on behalf of qualified black workers who were denied promotion to management.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Case No. 3:05 CV 00218) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jonesboro Division, was filed on behalf of Theresa Sharkey and a class of African Americans in Arkansas and Mississippi. In addition to rejecting the class of workers for promotion because of their race, the suit also alleged that Sharkey was forced to resign because of the company’s failure to promote her. Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to the monetary relief for the class of aggrieved individuals, the three-year consent decree settling the case also enjoins TSS from denying promotions to African American employees because of their race and from engaging in retaliation. The decree also requires TSS – which operates retail stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi – to:

* Provide training to all managers and supervisors on preventing race discrimination and retaliation;
* Create job descriptions for manager and assistant manager positions that outline the qualifications for each position;
* Develop a written promotion policy that will include the procedures by which employees will be notified of promotional opportunities;
* Report assistant manager and manager vacancies, the name and race of all applicants for the position, and the name of the successful candidate;
* Report the names of all African Americans who are either hired or promoted to manager or assistant manager positions; and
* Report any complaints of race discrimination and describe its investigation in response to the complaint.

“On July 2, we observed the 44th anniversary of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, yet race discrimination still remains a persistent problem in today’s contemporary workplace,” said Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and Northern Mississippi. “The EEOC urges employers to be vigilant in guarding against race discrimination in all aspects of employment.”

Celia Liner, the EEOC attorney who led the federal government’s litigation effort, added, “All employees should have the freedom to compete for promotions on a fair and level playing field, without regard to race. We are pleased that there are now effective procedures in place at this company to ensure that promotional opportunities are based on qualifications, not race.”

On Feb. 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the Commission's E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at

In Fiscal Year 2007, the EEOC received 30,510 charge filings alleging race-based discrimination, an increase of 12% from the prior year and the highest level in more than a decade. Historically, race discrimination has accounted for the most frequent type of charge filing with EEOC offices nationwide.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information

about the EEOC is available on its web site at