EEOC Sues Dollar General for Race Discrimination and Retaliation

JACKSON, Miss. - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) announced today that it has filed a lawsuit for race discrimination and retaliation against Dollar General Corporation, asserting that it violated federal law when it denied a black lead sales associate in a Long Beach, Miss., store a promotion to a vacant assistant store manager position because of her race. The EEOC said the store also retaliated against her for complaining, and filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

According to the EEOC's suit, Demetrice Hersey had been working for Dollar General for almost three years, most recently as the lead sales associate, when an assistant manager position became available three separate times between 2009 and early 2010. Dollar General rejected Hersey's requests to be promoted with spurious reasons, while hiring three less-qualified whites. After Hersey's complaints about the discriminatory treatment and her later filing a race discrimination charge with the EEOC, Dollar General began treating her in a demeaning and cruel manner and issued a series of unwarranted performance actions against her.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from using race as a factor in making employment decisions and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who invoke the protections afforded by Title VII. The EEOC's lawsuit, filed on Sept. 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (EEOC v. Dollar General Corporation, Case No. 3:12-cv-0670-HTW-LRA), seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"This lawsuit should remind employers that the EEOC will take action when a company makes hiring decisions based on the race of the applicants instead of on their experience and qualifications," said C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office.

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, added, "Some employers continue to allow race and retaliation to invade their workplace decisions. Employers need to ensure their work forces are properly trained in these areas, and held accountable if they violate the law."

According to company information, Dollar General is the nation's largest small-box discount retailer, and has almost 10,000 retail stores in 38 states.