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A young, well-dressed African-American man interviewed for a job at Eddie Bauer, but he didn't get the job and he never knew why.
In a new lawsuit, however, a former employee there says she knows why. The store manager at the Augusta store allegedly put it this way:
"Well, he's black and customers won't buy anything from him," the manager said in Atkins-Poulin v. Eddie Bauer. "We never hire people like that here."
Tammy Atkins-Poulin and Raquel Eliasen filed their complaint against the retailer under Maine's Human Rights Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act. They want unpaid wages, injunctive relief, and unspecified monetary damages.
The women say the company retaliated against them for complaining about racial slurs and discriminatory behavior. On one occasion, Eliasen said a manager asked her to follow an African-American family around the store because the manager didn't want to serve people of color.
"I called my mom and said, 'You won't believe this,'" Eliasen said in a statement released by her attorney. "This was not how I was raised."
Rebecca Webber, who represents the plaintiffs, said discrimination and racism is still common. She told the Bangor Daily News the only way to effect change is to "bring a case and chip away at it."
The lawsuit also alleges that a store manager used a derogatory term for Muslims. The manager asked Atkins-Poulin if her husband "had taken pleasure in shooting them in Iraq."
Atkins-Poulin said she later quit. Eliasen said she was fired.