Ruling Could Clear Way for Class Action Against Winn-Dixie

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Commission on Human Relations has reportedly found "reasonable cause" to believe that a former Winn-Dixie employee was the victim of age and racial discrimination, a ruling which sets the stage for a class-action discrimination lawsuit against the supermarket chain.

According to the report in Florida Today, in the complaint, Tammie Leonard of Titusville, Fla., alleged that after she was hired by Winn-Dixie in March 2004, the company denied her a job as seafood manager at the Harrison Street store based on her age and race. Instead, a younger white woman received the job, according to the complaint.

A manager of the store where Leonard worked made "racial slurs and derogatory comments" to her, changed her work schedule to get her to quit, and asked her when she was going to leave the store, according to the complaint.

Leonard, who is black, claimed that she called the company's ethics hot line, but no one returned her calls. She was fired in November 2006.

A lawyer is preparing the class action suit for about 35 former and current Winn-Dixie employees, according to the press report.

Winn-Dixie said in a statement that the company has an "effective and well-communicated" anti-discrimination policy. The company said it had not received a copy of the lawsuit, according to the report.
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