Taco Bell District Manager: "Didn't I Tell You Not to Hire Hispanics?"

In Depth

A former Taco Bell manager with a 27-year history with the company is now suing her former employers, claiming that she was fired for not engaging in racist hiring practices.

Juanita O’Connell stated in court that during the course of her employment as a General Manager at a Taco Bell outlet in Indianapolis, Indiana, her Company Operations Leader (read: District Manager) Mark Lewis told her “not to hire Hispanics.” O’Connell, who is Mexican-American, tried to go over Lewis’s head to complain that he was being a blatant racist. When Lewis came to inspect her store himself, however, he saw a Latino employee and asked O’Connell, “Didn’t I tell you not to hire Hispanics?”

Two weeks later, another higher up allegedly called O’Connell, asked her “misleading” questions about the store, and then fired her three hour later for a supposed I-9 violation — for those not in the know, an I-9 is a work authorization form, so there’s definitely some circumstantial evidence at the very least to back up what O’Connell is saying here.

In recent years, immigration has been a hot-button issue in Indiana. In 2011, the state passed Senate Enrolled Act 590, which banned undocumented immigrants from receiving welfare benefits (just to clarify: they already can’t, Indiana was just grandstanding here), mandated state contractors verify the immigration status of their employees, and declared consular ID’s to not be valid, among other measures. If a lot of those look familiar, there’s good reason for that: it was inspired by Arizona SB 1070, the infamous Convenient Brown Scapegoat Act Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which attempted to force all immigrants to carry papers with them, because sure, that idea isn’t reminiscent of anything horrifying. You may remember that in Arizona v. United States, significant portions of the law (including the “papers, please” section) were struck down by the Supreme Court, and Indiana’s law met a similar fate: in 2013, a federal judge ruled Indiana’s law unconstitutional on Fourth Amendment grounds.

Still, if a state manages to even pass a law like that in the first place, there’s always going to be lingering resentment. We’ll have to see what the courts have to say on the matter, but assuming this is true, the blatant nature of Lewis’s comments is staggering. Normally, anti-immigrant racists have to couch their hatred in dog whistle phrases like “taking jobs from real Americans” or “this is America, learn to speak English” or “fuck those orphaned children.” It’s a bit staggering to see someone giving so few fucks as to just straight up say “fuck the Hispanics.”

Image via Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.

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