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Yoshinoya Settles Suit with Line Cook Over Racist and Homophobic Slurs

12:49 AM PST on November 5, 2018

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] manager at a Yoshinoya franchise in South Los Angeles allegedly berated one of the shop's cooks for three years using racist and homophobic threats. When the cook complained, the shop's owner allegedly threatened to turn him over to immigration authorities. The incidents were documented in public court documents as part of a year-old lawsuit that was settled just last week.

    Jose Lopez, who worked as a cook for a Yoshinoya restaurant in the Crenshaw District, sued and agreed to a settlement with the company that owns that franchise, after alleging his boss frequently yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. According to the suit, Lopez’s supervisor Teresa Bersonda also invoked Donald Trump's name in threats of deporting him, including, “I am really glad Donald Trump won so he can throw out all of the immigrants."

    Bersonda, who was also named in the civil complaint, would allegedly loudly express her support for the president, punctuated with racial and homophobic slurs against Lopez. Some of the hate speech detailed in the lawsuit included the phrases “f--ing wetbacks,” “Jose is a f---ing f----t,” “You are worthless because you are an immigrant,” and "build that wall!"

    Lopez endured taunts and harassment from the time he was hired in August 2014 until he was forced to resign in December 2017, according to the lawsuit. Lopez, 38, is a native of El Salvador.

    Lopez's suit, filed in December 2017 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleged discrimination, harassment, failure to prevent harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention.

    The Yoshinoya Crenshaw franchise owner, Yasuhiko Sugimoto, met with Lopez and allegedly "threatened him with Homeland Security if he didn't dismiss his claims.” Lopez was “constructively terminated” in February 2017.

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he Crenshaw store where Lopez worked is one of 27 Yoshinoya restaurants in California that are owned and operated by franchisees. As the franchisor, Yoshinoya America declined to comment on the specifics in the lawsuit.

    “What I would like to say is that as a matter of policy we, Yoshinoya, we value diversity, we prohibit discriminatory treatment of any company employee based on race or culture,” Bobby Williams, vice president of marketing at Yoshinoya America, told L.A. Taco. “This kind of thing is very upsetting. Our relationship with the Latino community goes back over 40 years. Our stores are in Latino neighborhoods, an overwhelming majority of all of our employees and customers are Latino. We very much consider ourselves as a part of the Latino community.”

    The suit lays out a vivid timeline accusing the Crenshaw location manager of a three-year onslaught of harassment, and Yoshinoya of failing to act to mitigate the problem. 

    According to the suit, Bersonda would routinely mock and mimic his accent saying, "You are a stupid ass because you don’t know English.” Lopez complained to upper management about the Bersonda’s behavior. That helped temporarily. "He was told by company management that he needed to deal with it or leave," the suit stated.

    His lawyers last week filed court papers with Judge Robert Draper that state the case was conditionally settled, but the terms of the settlement were not divulged. A trial date had been originally set for Feb. 11, 2019, according to court documents.

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