NEW YORK, Nov. 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — New York based law firm Weinberg Zareh Malkin Price LLP, working with local counsel R. Lane Anderson of the Dallas, Texas office of The Wilhite Law Firm, today announced the filing of a federal employment discrimination class action lawsuit against Panini America, Inc. (“Panini”). Panini is an operating subsidiary of Panini S.P.A., an entity which holds itself out as an international brand leader within the world of sticker and trading card collectibles featuring prominent athletes.

The complaint alleges that Panini heavily relies on the talents of Black, Brown, Latinx, and Asian-American athletes for its success. It is estimated that 75% or more of Panini’s business is derived from non-Caucasian athletes, while Panini is alleged in the complaint to systematically marginalize and abuse Non-Caucasian Employees in its own workplace, making its discriminatory practices even more egregious.

According to the complaint, Panini employees who do not identify as Caucasian, encompassing individuals from diverse racial backgrounds including, but not limited to, African-American, Latin American, Asian American, and other minority racial minorities, have faced or have been at risk of facing racial discrimination, differential treatment, and racial hostility in the workplace. The complaint further alleges that Panini’s leadership is racially and ethnically segregated from the staff, and despite the company’s vast number of employees in the United States, there is a noticeable lack of diversity in its top positions. The complaint states that Non-Caucasian Employees, including Mexican-Americans like the class representative, find themselves substantially unrepresented in leadership roles. In a company as large as Panini, the complaint asserts that this absence of diversity in leadership is glaring and indicative of deeper systemic issues. 

The complaint goes on to allege that, during her employment at Panini, the class representative observed that desks of Non-Caucasian Employees were deliberately grouped together, segregated from the work locations of their Caucasian counterparts, and that this intentional physical separation was not only demeaning, but also served as a continuous reminder of the company’s discriminatory practices. Moreover, the complaint alleges that the class representative faced derogatory comments, particularly from Caucasian colleagues, including a manager. These remarks often manifested as “jokes” that targeted Mexicans, specifically mocking their attire, and insinuations that Latinx employees would be more efficient if they weren’t “distracted” by having so many children, according to the complaint. The complaint further alleges that Caucasian employees were never subjected to any such derogatory remarks. 

According to the complaint, Panini’s Black and Latinx employees are also routinely labeled by Caucasian supervisors as “lazy,” “unmotivated,” and “insubordinate.” Such gross weaponization of anti-Black and anti-Latinx stereotypes is unacceptable in itself, and inevitably here is alleged to be coupled with the objective reality that these same Black and Latinx employees matched or exceeded the productivity of Caucasian counterparts who were not subjected to these derogatory labels, per the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Panini has a pattern and practice of discrimination against Non-Caucasian Employees, including the class representative, and that the pattern and practice is systemic, persistent, and continuous, and manifests itself in at least the following ways:

  • Terminations based on racial animus;
  • Racially-motivated taunting or comments by co-workers and supervisors;
  • Low numbers of minority employees, including and especially at the supervisory level; and
  • Difficulties in minority employees, like the class representative, in achieving equitable promotion rates.

In May of 2023, social justice and civil rights groups Until Freedom and Black Church PAC sent a scathing demand letter to Panini, and to the commissioners and heads of the NBA, NFL, MLB, National Women’s Soccer League, MLS, and the NHL (the “Open Letter”). The Open Letter set forth pointed criticisms of Panini’s hiring and employment practices and demanded that Panini, which benefits heavily from Black and other non-Caucasian bodies, have in place employment policies that ensure adequate representation and fair treatment throughout its business structure. 

The Open Letter notes that, despite 75% of its business stemming from black and brown athletes, only 3 of Panini’s 800 employees on LinkedIn are black. Highlighting this disparity, the letter demanded immediate reforms and threatened potential boycotts.

As a remedy for Panini’s unlawful actions, the class representative seeks declaratory and injunctive relief; back pay for the period she was subjected to discrimination; potential front pay; compensatory and punitive damages; and attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses on behalf of herself and the proposed class pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

For further information, contact Omid Zareh at [email protected]. 

SOURCE Weinberg Zareh Malkin Price LLP

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