Law Steve Watkins The Black O

ISBN 13: 9780820319162

The Black O

4.17 avg rating
( 6 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780820319162: The Black O

In 1988 several white managers of the Shoney’s restaurant chain protested against the company’s discriminatory hiring practices, including an order to blacken the “O” in “Shoney’s” on minorities’ job applications so that the marked forms could be discarded. When the managers refused to comply, they lost their jobs but not their resolve—they sued the company. Their case grew into the largest racial job discrimination class action lawsuit of its time. Shoney’s eventually offered to settle out of court, and the nearly 21,000 claimants divided a $132.5 million settlement, bringing to an abrupt end a landmark case that changed corporate attitudes nationwide.

The Black O is a fascinating, behind-the-scenes story populated with many unforgettable characters, including civil rights lawyer Tommy Warren, the former college football star and convicted felon who took the case; Ray Danner, the ironfisted former CEO who developed the Shoney’s concept; and Justice Clarence Thomas, former head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sat idly by for years while complaints mounted against Shoney’s. The Black O speaks to an issue that continues to have great urgency, serving as a stark refutation that the civil rights movement eliminated systemic discrimination from the workplace.

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About the Author:

Steve Watkins is a professor of English at the University of Mary Washington. He is the author of a collection of stories, My Chaos Theory, and two young adult novels, Down Sand Mountain and What Comes After. Watkins is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in publications including LA Weekly, Poets and Writers, and the Nation.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A startling journalistic effort by first-time author Watkins, looking at Jim Crowera hiring practices at a national restaurant chain. Ray Danner, the diminutive head of Shoney's, spent most weekends flying to his restaurants across the country. His inspections were the stuff of legend--he was rumored to pitch in if the restaurant was busy, and he made time to speak to all the staff. He also, according to the managers under his rule, made sure to let them know if there were too many blacks working in a particular restaurant--``Lighten the place up'' was a favored euphemism for this policy. The chain's upper ranks instructed managers to cut back on black staff by sharply reducing their work hours, and promotions of black workers were all but forbidden. In April 1988, managers Billie and Henry Elliott were fired for refusing to comply with Shoney's racial policy, and the incensed couple went to Tommy Warren, a football star turned lawyer who agreed to take on the company's large and well-paid legal team. Warren found thousands of black workers who had been humiliated and fired from Shoney's restaurants, and more, like Josephine Haynes, whose applications for work had been ignored: Managers were instructed to blacken the o in ``Shoney's'' on the application form if the job-seeker was black. The class-action case (on behalf of 21,000 victims of discrimination) languished for years under Clarence Thomas at the EEOC, though the numbers of those discriminated against by Shoney's kept growing. At the same time, the Supreme Court whittled away at the legal standing of discrimination suits, forcing Warren to focus almost solely on applicants who had been unfairly denied work. Nevertheless, Warren prevailed and settled the case with Shoney's in 1992 for $132.5 million, the largest such settlement in US history. An unsettling, fascinating revelation of a truly wretched corporate environment and a rare triumph for the underdog. (9 b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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