McFadden's settles bias suit with bartender

Posted: December 01, 2010

Racial equality will be on tap at McFadden's on North 3rd Street, but a general manager who said "we are a white bar" in a text message won't be part of it.

Bartender Michael Bolden, who is black, reached a settlement yesterday with McFadden's and its owners after filing a lawsuit last month, alleging racial discrimination of employees and customers there. Bolden, who is also an attorney, chose not to receive any money as part of the settlement, his attorney said.

"My goal was to effectuate changes at McFadden's that would positively impact race relations," Bolden said in a statement issued yesterday by both parties.

Former general manager Walt Wyrsta, who allegedly sent text messages to a fellow employee saying "We don't want black people, we are a white bar" won't be part of McFadden's "renewed commitment to diversity." He was fired after an internal investigation.

Last month, Bolden alleged in a federal lawsuit that McFadden's and its owner, Miriam's Kids Inc., "not only tolerated, but mandated" racism and racial segregation at the bar. Bolden cited the McFadden's dress code, a lack of diversity among the workforce and his own treatment as examples, but the most damning evidence, he claimed, came in the form of racist text messages and e-mails sent by Wyrsta to another employee.

This past summer, according to the complaint, McFadden's hired a black promoter and DJ for Wednesday nights as its usual college crowd had either gone home or to the Shore. The Wednesday nights were popular and profitable, the complaint alleged, but drew mostly a black crowd.

As summer came to a close, though, both the DJ and promoter were let go. In one text message in October, Wyrsta allegedly chided a fellow manager because he felt there were still too many black customers and guest bartenders there.

"So lets get back to basics and make the necessary changes by fading away that clientele from the bar and behind the bar," Wyrsta allegedly wrote.

Bolden claimed his shifts were then cut and he was moved to the less-profitable back bar at McFadden's. In yesterday's statement, John L. Sullivan, the majority shareholder in McFadden's 3rd Street, thanked Bolden for bringing the issues to light.

"Race discrimination at McFadden's 3rd Street is not acceptable and will not be tolerated," Sullivan said.

As part of the settlement, McFadden's will hire a human-resources firm to establish equal- employment-opportunity policies, institute mandatory anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation training programs for employees and managers, and establish a confidential hot-line number for employees who want to voice complaints.

McFadden's, according to the settlement, will record and monitor hiring and firing, promotions and assignments, as well as discrimination and retaliation complaints. The company will provide quarterly, written reports to the court for one year.

Bolden's attorney, Laura Mattiacci, said Wyrsta's termination was not part of the settlement. Wyrsta could not be reached for comment.

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