Former Kraft employee sues food giant for race discrimination

Jon Campisi Aug. 3, 2011, 8:05am

A New Jersey man who worked for Kraft for more than three decades has filed a federal job discrimination lawsuit against the food giant, alleging his treatment and subsequent termination was directly related to his race.

Philadelphia attorney Robert T. Vance, Jr. filed the employment discrimination lawsuit Aug. 1 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Reginald Fenter, who worked for Kraft Foods Global Inc. from 1974 to 2008.

In the lawsuit, Fenter claims that he was “constructively discharged because of his race and in retaliation for having complained about race discrimination.”

The complaint states that Fenter’s last position with the company prior to his termination was that of retail sales manager.

The lawsuit states that throughout his long career with Kraft, Fenter had exemplary marks, receiving various awards and recognitions for a job well done. He was also directly responsible for promoting 27 employees during a 22-year period.

But his job apparently didn’t come without its problems.

“Despite years of exemplary performance and achievement … Fenter experienced a racially hostile work environment at Kraft, was retaliated against when he complained about the racially hostile work environment for him and other African American sales professionals and otherwise experienced work conditions that left him with no reasonable alternative other to resign his employment,” according to the complaint.

One complaint in the lawsuit is that Fenter was assigned to a sales territory that was 65 miles from his home, despite the fact that two white sales managers both lived 20 miles closer to the territory than Fenter.

Fenter was also required to travel more than 100 miles to sales meetings in New York state, while others from the region only had to travel 10 miles to New Jersey for similar meetings, the lawsuit states.

Fenter, a member of the Black Sales Caucus at Kraft, a group formed to address race-related issues at Kraft, also claims employees he had advocated on behalf of for promotion were overlooked because of their race.

“Kraft management viewed Fenter’s actions in support of the African American sales representatives as pushy, threatening and offensive,” the lawsuit states.

Sometime prior to February 2008, Fenter had determined that he had “no alternative other than to resign his employment with Kraft,” the suit states, “and he was effectively constructively discharged in February 2008.”

The fact that Kraft refused to issue Fenter a severance package violates the plaintiff’s civil rights, the lawsuit claims.

In addition to violations of federal law, the suit claims that Kraft’s actions also violated New Jersey state law against discrimination.

“Kraft’s actions described above were severe and/or pervasive enough to make a reasonable African American male in Plaintiff’s position believe that the conditions of his employment were intolerable, hostile and abusive,” the lawsuit states.

Fenter seeks back pay and punitive damages against Kraft, as well as a decree that Kraft engaged in illegal race discrimination. He also seeks repayment of attorney’s fees and other court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-04916-RK.

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