Former Employee Says She Was Racially Harassed at Main Line Wawa

"I am a black woman living in the white world of Wawa," the woman says she told a Wawa manager.

The Bryn Mawr Wawa (photo by Adrian Hickman)

The Bryn Mawr Wawa (photo by Adrian Hickman)

A black woman from Bucks County has filed a federal lawsuit against the Media-based Wawa convenience stores, alleging that she was discriminated against and harassed because of her race while she was an employee of the Bryn Mawr Wawa.

The Bensalem woman, who asked that we withhold her name from this story, joined Wawa in December 2012 as part of the company’s College Graduate Leadership Program, which is open to individuals who have graduated from college within the previous year. She had recently graduated with honors from St. Joseph’s University with a degree in finance and management.

“The College Graduate Leadership Program will give you what you need to launch a leadership career while learning real-life skills that can help you excel personally and professionally,” reads the description on the Wawa website. “[T]he program offers leadership development, essential management skills/training and the experience to build a solid foundation of store management. At the end of a successful 24 months, you will have the tools to build your own successful leadership career.”

In September 2014, when her two years of training was almost complete, the woman was placed at the Wawa in Bryn Mawr.

In her lawsuit, she alleges that as soon as she started working at the Bryn Mawr store, she noticed that the general manager, Derek Rush, treated her differently than the white employees there.

She says that Rush was “standoffish” and that he routinely refused her shift and time-off requests, while regularly granting the same for the white employees. (When we asked Rush for comment on the suit, he promptly hung up on us.)

The woman claims in the suit that in October 2014, about one month after she joined the team at the Bryn Mawr Wawa, two other employees came to her and said that Rush had been asking them questions about her. She says they told her she had “better watch herself” around Rush.

She didn’t waste any time reporting the situation to Wawa management. The lawsuit states that in November 2014, she reported Rush’s behavior to a Wawa regional manager, who agreed to meet with her to discuss the matter.

She says she told the manager that Rush was racially discriminating against her and that she was a “black woman living in the white world of Wawa.”

But she claims that Wawa did nothing to investigate. She says that Rush’s treatment of her continued.

The following January, the woman alleges that Rush secretly scheduled her to work so that he’d have an offense to write up after she didn’t show. Then in February, she was called to a meeting with the regional manager, where she was fired.

According to the suit, she was told she was being let go due to a food-handling issue on the part of a store employee, but the woman maintains that she wasn’t even managing that department on the day in question.

As she sees it, she was racially harassed and discriminated against, and her termination was an act of retaliation. She later filed a complaint with the Equality Employment Opportunity Commission and was issued a right-to-sue letter last February. She filed her suit on Thursday. She’s seeking back and front pay of at least $150,000, in addition to punitive damages.

Wawa did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.

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