Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
MONDAY, May 3, 2004
(202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888


          The Department of Justice today announced the settlement of a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against African-American customers by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., a nationwide family restaurant chain. The agreement, filed with the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, still requires court approval.

          The consent order, which will last up to five years, commits Cracker Barrel to abide by Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and requires it to make changes in several major areas.

The injunction forbids Cracker Barrel from:

  • denying service or food, or providing inferior service or food, to any person because of race or color;
  • engaging in or allowing discriminatory seating or service assignments because of race or color;
  • discouraging, or allowing any employee to discourage, any person from enjoying food or service because of race or color;
  • treating customer complaints differently on the basis of race or color; and
  • retaliating against any officer, employee or agent who opposes or reports instances of alleged customer discrimination.

    To ensure that the injunction is obeyed, Cracker Barrel has agreed to:

  • create and adopt a revised customer non-discrimination policy designed to avoid discrimination against customers based on their race or color;
  • explain the revised customer non-discrimination policy to company managers and hourly employees;
  • inform the public about the revised customer non-discrimination policy;
  • improve its internal training program for managers and hourly employees so that they will be better able both to avoid discrimination and to recognize it if it has occurred;
  • create a new department to investigate complaints of discrimination against customers;
  • hire an outside expert, called an Auditor, who will make sure that Cracker Barrel is complying with the order; and
  • hire an outside testing company to test Cracker Barrel's compliance with the order.

Creation and adoption of a revised customer non-discrimination policy

          Cracker Barrel has already revised its non-discrimination policy designed to avoid discrimination against customers. The policy is designed to ensure that Cracker Barrel complies with the injunction that is the center of today's agreement.

Communication to company managers and employees

          Within 15 days after the court approves the settlement, the company must give a copy of the revised customer non-discrimination policy to all of its employees. The company will then have an additional 15 days to secure a signed acknowledgment from each employee, verifying that he or she has received, read and understood it.

          Within 30 days after the court approves settlement, the revised customer non-discrimination policy must be: posted in the employee break room at each restaurant location; included in future publications of the employee handbook; placed in all internal written study guides that Cracker Barrel uses to teach employees who want to receive a promotion; and placed on the company web site.

Communication to the public

          Within 30 days, each Cracker Barrel store must post in its vestibule a sign that states the following:

In the spirit of pleasing people, we invite everyone regardless of race, color, disability, or national origin, to enjoy our restaurant and old country store. Since 1969, we have tried our best to provide food and service in ways that uphold our traditions of genuine quality. If you feel we have not delivered on this promise, please let us know. 1-800-333-9566 or www.crackerbarrel.com

           The company will also list its toll-free number and/or web site on at least one "table tent," a small cardboard sign, placed on each table and at the bottom of each customer's receipt.

Implementation of an Improved Customer Non-discrimination Training Program

          Beginning in 2004, Cracker Barrel's top management, including its general managers and district managers, will be required to attend an annual training workshop. All associate and senior associate managers will view a videotape of this training workshop and attend a question-and-answer session led by the district manager. All managers will also be required to complete an annual e-learning program.

           All non-management employees must complete a form of customer non-discrimination training lasting at least 45 minutes. Additionally, all managers hired after the initial training program will attend a manager's training workshop within 90 days of hire. All hourly employees hired after the initial training will view the videotape and/or successfully complete an e-learning program about customer discrimination within 60 days of hire.

Creation of the Investigation Department

           By August 1, 2004, Cracker Barrel will create a new Investigation Department that will be responsible for investigating all customer complaints based on race, color, or national origin.

          Managers will be allowed to address any concerns of customers who make discrimination complaints at the store level. However, managers will be required to report all complaints about potential customer discrimination to company headquarters, even if the manager satisfactorily resolved the complaint. In addition, managers will be required to: accept complaints, either from the customer or from any third party, and obtain all relevant information relating to the alleged unsatisfactory conduct.

          The Investigation Department, not the managers, will have the responsibility and the authority to investigate all customer complaints involving or suspected to involve alleged discrimination based on race or color and to make determinations as to whether or not there is a basis for each complaint.

          All managers and employees will be required to cooperate with these investigations, and Cracker Barrel will provide the Investigation Department with the documents it needs to reach an accurate decision.

Hiring of an Auditor

          Cracker Barrel will hire an Auditor who will: periodically review reports generated by the Investigation Department; review the internal customer non-discrimination training materials and various policies; review the procedures relating to the identification and handling of customer complaints based on race and color; and audit its overall compliance with the consent order.

           The Auditor, who will be independent of Cracker Barrel, will have the right to hire whatever staff is necessary to fulfill these oversight obligations. Cracker Barrel will pay all costs of the Auditor and staff.

           All managers and employees will be required to cooperate to the fullest extent possible with the Auditor. Additionally, the Auditor will apprize the Department of Justice of Cracker Barrel's progress in complying with the Consent Order.

Participation in a Testing Program

          Cracker Barrel will pay an independent firm to set up a "testing program" designed to ensure that all Cracker Barrel customers receive equal treatment.

           Under the testing program, two teams - each consisting of an equal number of persons who are similarly matched on personal characteristics except for race or color - will visit the same Cracker Barrel store at different times (within a relatively short period of time) and then compare their treatment to make sure each team was treated the same.

          No one at Cracker Barrel, including its management, will know ahead of time which stores are being tested, when or by whom. If the tests show discrimination at any store, the testing company will inform Cracker Barrel, the auditor and the Justice Department. Cracker Barrel will take appropriate corrective action.

          During the first year of the consent decree, the testing company will conduct 250 tests of various Cracker Barrel stores throughout the country. During the remaining years of the consent decree, the testing company will conduct proportionally fewer tests based in part on any accumulated evidence of continued discrimination.

Length of the Consent Order

          The Consent Order will last five years. If, however, after four years Cracker Barrel has been in "substantial compliance" with the decree for at least the past two years, Cracker Barrel may ask the court to end the order.


          Cracker Barrel will report on its progress to the Justice Department every three months during the first year of the Order and every six months during subsequent years. These reports will explain all steps that Cracker Barrel has taken during that time period to comply with the Order.

           In addition, the Auditor will prepare reports every three months during the first year of the order and every six months afterward. These reports will recount the results of all testing conducted during that period and will contain information about customer complaints and information about any discipline and remedial training.

          Furthermore, the Justice Department will have the right to review relevant Cracker Barrel documents during the duration of the order.

          If Cracker Barrel fails to comply with the terms of the order, the Justice Department has the right to ask a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to require the company to comply.


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Updated August 6, 2015

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