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Waitress' age, bias claims fail because she was not fired: Court


A white waitress in her 50s who sued a Cracker Barrel restaurant on grounds of race and age discrimination and retaliation failed to prove she was terminated from her job, an appeals court has ruled in dismissing her suit.

Ruth N. Andrews worked as a server at the Cracker Barrel operated by Lebanon, Tenn.-based CBOCS West Inc. from 1999 until Dec. 21, 2007, according to Friday's ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in Ruth N. Andrews v. CBOCS West Inc. and J.J. Stewart.

She brought a discrimination claim against CBOCS West in 2002, which was settled in 2003, and continued working at the Caseyville, Ill., restaurant.

In 2006, J.J. Stewart, a black man who was general manager of the restaurant, made daily comments about her age, calling her “old woman,” “old lady” and “grandma,” and would impersonate an elderly woman when he approached her, according to the ruling.

He encouraged her to transfer to the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Mount Vernon, Ill.

Ms. Andrews alleged that Mr. Stewart told her the transfer had gone through, but she never actually applied to work at the other restaurant, never contacted anyone in management, and never was offered a start date or shift of hours at the Mount Vernon restaurant, according to the ruling.

Ms. Andrews took a three-week paid vacation, which ended Jan. 12, 2008. On Jan. 24, she received a check in the mail from Cracker Barrel that referred to her termination as of Dec. 21, 2007, her last day of work before vacation. Meanwhile, Mr. Stewart was fired on Jan. 11, 2008 in another matter.


Ms. Andrews filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2008, alleging that Mr. Stewart fired her because of her sex, age and race, and in retaliation for her prior discrimination claim. However, an East St. Louis, Ill., federal judge later dismissed her suit alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

“Andrews' case fails at the threshold,” a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit ruled unanimously in upholding the lower court's ruling.

While she needed to show she had suffered a “materially adverse employment action,” the appeals court panel said the “undisputed facts establish that she voluntarily left her job at the Cracker Barrel in Caseyville, apparently anticipating a transfer to the Mount Vernon return.”

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in CBOCS West Inc. vs. Hedrick G. Humphries that racial retaliation claims are allowed under Section 1981, a federal law based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, even though retaliation is not explicitly stated in the statue, based on precedent already established by previous rulings. The suit was filed by a black associate manager at a Bradley, Ill., Cracker Barrel restaurant.