DETROIT, Mich. — A former manager for Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing Co. has filed a federal racial-discrimination lawsuit against the company. The suit – which labels the firm as Canal Street Brewing LLC “Doing Business As” Founders – was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Tracy Evans.
Founders, through its attorney, calls the lawsuit allegations “baseless.”
Evans – who is African-American and a former Founders manager – alleges in the suit “blatant” racism by white co-workers and managers during his four-year stint (2014-2018) at Founders’ locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit. Evans, of Wayne County, says the brewery’s Human Resources department failed to act upon his complaints – and fired him before he could file another formal complaint about Founders’ “racist work environment”.
Specifically, “He was denied a promotion due to his race…his coworkers used racial slurs around him and with other employees,” according to the complaint. “In fact, the company itself named its printers in a blatantly racist fashion. Plaintiff complained to HR throughout his employment, but his complaints fell upon deaf ears.”
The Miller Johnson LLC attorney representing Founders Brewing – Patrick Edsenga – provided a written statement in response to the lawsuit:
“The allegations of unlawful conduct in Mr. Evans’ lawsuit are baseless. Founders is a company that is built on diversity and its culture is the result of a great mixture of people who treat each other with respect. Founders will vigorously defend itself against these claims and is confident that it will prevail”.
The attorney for Evans, Jack Schulz, tells FOX 17: “The company is very close and everybody takes care of each other. But it seems to be a situation that, because of his race, he was on the outside there….(Evans) thought his efforts would be showcased and he’d be able to find a home there…but he didn’t feel there was a place for racist comments…and HR didn’t think it was a big deal, but it is.”
Evans is seeking monetary damages (“the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000…”) as compensation for lost wages “and alleged mistreatment”. The suit says Evans sought “new beginnings” with the company by moving to its newly-opening Detroit taproom, but “realized the same practices of ignoring racially insensitive comments and unequal treatment made their way to the new facility, as well.”
The lawsuit says Evans began working for Founders in 2014 as a Packaging Machine Operator in Grand Rapids. He was promoted to Assistant Shift Lead for the Production Department within his first year.