Sonic employee says she was not promoted because of race

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Sep 25, 2012

HOUSTON - A Katy woman alleges race as a factor behind her termination from Sonic Restaurants Inc. and has filed a lawsuit. 

Elizabeth Garza's suit, filed Sept. 21 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas, explains the plaintiff sought the co-manager position with the company but was turned down yet her white counterparts were promoted at other stores.

She complained about the apparent discrimination only to be mistreated and eventually fired after almost three years of employment, the suit says.

Joining SRI as co-respondents are Garza's former superiors Diana Austin and Michael Branham.

SRI hired Garza as an assistant manager at a Sonic Drive In in Cypress in northwest Harris County on June 24, 2009.

Garza inquired defendant Branham in August 2009 about a promotion after two previous co-managers, who are Caucasian females, left and was told she needed to "prove herself."

The suit shows the plaintiff assumed the responsibilities of a co-manager while carrying on as an assistant manager, insisting she "performed these tasks in an exemplary manner and there were no complaints regarding her standard of work."

Meanwhile, Garza continuously requested that Branham elevate her to no avail, the original petition says.

According to the plaintiff, Branham ordered her to falsify reports to reflect better customer service figures for her restaurant, and upon learning she intervened on behalf of a non-English speaking Hispanic employee who was fired, "began to harass [her] by cutting her work hours and issuing complaints against her to her immediate supervisor."

Branham left earlier this year and was succeeded by Austin, with whom Garza also discussed a promotion.

Garza asserts Austin talked to her about the possibility of assuming the co-manager position at the Cypress Sonic which was vacant since 2010, however, the former was dismissed after calling into question purported customer complaints against her.

She insists employees of similar ethnic descent were mistreated as well.

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Shahara Wright Menchan with The Wright Firm PLLC in Stafford is representing Garza.

Case No. 4:12-cv-2834

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