TRENTON, NJ–Wawa Inc. argued in New Jersey federal court on February 10 that a former fuel associate was terminated for failing to record cash sales, not because he complained a superior told him to speak in English, according to a report from Law360.com.
Pennsylvania-based Wawa, which operates about 245 conveniences stores in the Garden State and sells fuel at more than 130 sites, also said its one-time employee’s discrimination suit should be dismissed, according to the report.
The gas station attendant, an immigrant from Kosovo named Safet Hajra, was employed by Wawa for almost two years.
After a falling out, Hajra filed a lawsuit against Wawa in late 2015, saying “he was fired on trumped-up allegations of theft after complaining about discrimination from a supervisor,” according to the report.
But Wawa maintains that he was terminated over “well-substantiated reasons,” reads the report.
“[The] Plaintiff lost his job because Wawa had overwhelming, uncontradicted evidence, including time cards, the transaction journal and video surveillance that showed that the plaintiff repeatedly failed to ring sales,” Wawa’s brief said, according to the report.
What’s more, the Pemberton Police Department arrested Hajra “after reviewing the material” on theft charges.
Wawa asserts that Hajra’s work environment was normal, and that a request to “speak English” twice did not make for a “hostile” climate at the fuel site, says the report.
And the manager, who was apparently new, told Hajra to speak English “because no one could understand him,” according to an earlier Law360.com report on the case.
However, the supervisor apologized after learning her comment was not well-taken by Hajra.
Wawa feels Hajra’s “retaliation claim” is without merit, because there was no evidence that complaining to his manager over the so-called “‘speak English’ incident led to his firing,” reads the report.
After telling his general manager that what his new manager said to him caused a “hostile work environment,” Hajra was reportedly asked questions “by an investigator” about the missing cash.
The new manager also said she “regretted the remarks,” writes Law360, citing the suit.
Hajra claims Wawa “violated the national origin bias, religious discrimination and retaliation tenets of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the discrimination, harassment and retaliation provisions of Section 1981 of the U.S. Code,” says the report.
Wawa is privately owned and runs more than 730 stores throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.
It began as an iron foundry in NJ before becoming a dairy processor in Wawa, Pennsylvania in 1902. But the first Wawa market launched 52 years ago in Folsom, Pennsylvania.
Named by Forbes magazine as one of “America’s Largest Private Companies,” Wawa does $9 billion a year in revenue. The company says it employs some 23,000 associates, and serves 400 million consumers each year.
While Wawa is expanding rapidly in New Jersey, the state where it will open the most stores in coming years is Florida. The company launched its first store in the Sunshine State in 2012, and may open as many as 200 stores there by 2022.
Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.