A Philadelphia man claims in a lawsuit against health food retailer Whole Foods that he was discriminated against by a supervisor because of his age and race.

Joseph Wright, who is in his mid-50s and black, filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia this week against Whole Foods Market, claiming that he suffered disparate treatment at the hands of a younger, more inexperienced white woman who oversaw the plaintiff’s duties as a cook in the kitchen.

The civil action, which follows a mid-May 2012 charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, says that Wright, who began his employment with the Whole Foods on Callowhill Street in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood in early 2008, was treated differently soon after a woman identified as Sarah Pearlstein became his manager.

When the plaintiff began working for the defendant there was only one minority team leader in the meat department at the Callowhill Street Whole Foods, but that team leader ultimately transferred to the Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, leaving the plaintiff to be overseen by Pearlstein, who came from the store’s retail department, and had little to no experience with cooking, according to the complaint.

Wright claims that Pearlstein discriminated against him in various ways, such as by telling other team leaders that Wright wasn’t qualified to hold certain positions, allegedly doing so without giving any “serious credence to Plaintiff’s credentials,” lawsuit states.

Pearlstein also promoted at least two younger white Whole Foods employees, both of who were considerably younger than Wright and had no experience in the culinary arts, to supervisory positions, the suit says.

The complaint goes on to allege that Whole Foods has failed to follow up on a complaint Wright made regarding Pearlstein.

Whole Foods is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, in addition to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Wright, the suit claims, has suffered damages as a direct result of the defendant’s unlawful actions.

The complaint seeks to have Whole Foods permanently enjoined from permitting discrimination and retaliation against Wright.

Wright also seeks to be compensated for any and all pay and benefits he would have received had it not been for the defendant’s illegal actions, including the pay he would have received had he been promoted to a higher job position.

Punitive damages, legal fees and costs are also being sought.

Wright is being represented by Penndel, Pa. attorney Wayne A. Ely of the firm Kolman Ely.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-04838-NS.

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