Former Buffalo Wild Wings Cook Sues Restaurant for Race and Age Discrimination

A former Buffalo Wild Wings employee has filed a lawsuit against one of the company’s chain restaurants in Kansas for making derogatory comments about Black customers and allowing employees to give them poor service.Gary Lovelace, a former cook at a Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) in Overland Park, Kansas, filed a suit in US District Court in Kansas on Monday, May 20. Lovelace is suing BWW and its parent company, Inspire Brands, for being a “racially hostile work environment,” according to the lawsuit viewed by The North Star.

The lawsuit states that Lovelace, 55, had worked at the Buffalo Wild Wings located at 105th Street in Overland Park and was allegedly subjected to racial and age-based discrimination. The suit contends that problems arose when the company hired General Manager Pat Robben at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

While working with Robben, an assistant manager reportedly referred to Lovelace to a new employee as “the angry Black man.” Lovelace reported the incident to Robben but said in the lawsuit that no action was taken against the assistant general manager. Robben reportedly made “derogatory comments about African American customers and permit servers to refuse to serve African American employees or provide them with subpar service,” the lawsuit states.

Lovelace’s attorney, Gerald Gray, told the Kansas City Star, which first reported about the lawsuit, that white employees would refuse to serve Black customers because “Blacks don’t give good tips.”

Lovelace, who has worked at the restaurant for 12 years, alleges that he was targeted for his age and for having asthma. Robben called Lovelace “old” because it took him longer than the younger employees to complete certain tasks. Robben would also complain when Lovelace asked for extra breaks because the cold air while working in the freezer triggered his asthma, according to the lawsuit.

In 2017, Lovelace became a caretaker for a relative and received disciplinary action for being late despite having family medical emergencies. He was told repeatedly by management that he would have to call in sick despite noting that he would be arriving late, the lawsuit stated. Lovelace reported his concerns about this, as well as the discrimination he faced, but his complaints were dismissed.

“Mr. Lovelace became fearful and was often stressed due to the tension he faced on the job during his shifts over the last year of his employment with Defendant,” the lawsuit states. Lovelace was fired from his job in October 2017 for arriving late to work, according to the lawsuit.

Lovelace is seeking $75,000 for lost wages, benefits, and emotional and mental distress, the lawsuit states. Gray sent a statement to The North Star on behalf of Lovelace, stating that he and his client will continue to seek justice. "We filed the lawsuit based on the facts and experiences Mr. Lovelace faced during his 12 years of employment at Buffalo Wild Wings. We intend to litigate this matter in court and Buffalo Wild Wings will have the opportunity to defend these allegations. Our goal is not only to obtain justice for Mr. Lovelace but to ensure things like those alleged in the lawsuit don't continue in today's America,” the statement read.

“There are laws that protect against this type of behavior and if you believe you've experienced discriminatory or retaliatory treatment, seek help.” A spokesperson from Buffalo Wild Wings told The North Star that they cannot comment on the lawsuit but said they “take the allegations very seriously and are conducting an internal investigation.”

“Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and we have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” a spokesperson from the company said.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.