Lawsuits Wawa
102416_MainWawalogo Matt Rourke/AP

Wawa logo.

August 23, 2017

Former manager files civil rights lawsuit against Wawa

GM allegedly tells employee: 'We are not paying you to speak Puerto Rican'

A former Wawa employee who was fired while on disability is suing the popular convenience store chain in federal court, claiming his old boss repeatedly mistreated him on the job because of his ethnicity.

In a civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last Wednesday, Juan Pineiro claims he endured a racially hostile work environment at the Wawa store on Pottsville Pike at Reading. The suit also argues that Wawa wrongfully fired Pineiro last year and violated the state's Human Relations Act.

As Philly Mag first reported Wednesday, Pineiro seeks in excess of $75,000 for his work injury, financial damages and emotional distress. The suit names his former general manager, Dave Mullen, as well as Wawa and "John Does."

Pineiro's complaint lists several alleged altercations with his general manager, Dave Mullen, when they worked together at a Wawa store on Pottsville Pike in Reading.

Pineiro, who was hired in March 2015 and worked as a fresh food manager, claimed his problems with Mullen started as early as Mullen's second day on the job in October 2015, when he allegedly told Pineiro he wasn't happy with his ordering book.

Among other complaints, the former employee claims Mullen made several derogatory references to Pineiro's ethnicity.

After a couple of Spanish-speaking customers had asked Pineiro to speak to them in Spanish while he served them, Mullen allegedly stated loudly to Pineiro that "we do not pay you to speak Puerto Rican."

Pineiro angrily responded that he was not speaking Puerto Rican, he was speaking Spanish, according to court documents.

In another incident, Mullen allegedly wanted to meet with Pineiro while he was on vacation. When they met after Pineiro returned to work, Mullen allegedly stated that "you Spanish people really like your vacation."

Pineiro's suit also claims that he was not aware Wawa had fired him in February 2016. He found out about his termination in May of that year, when he was told his unemployment compensation case was being processed in court.

Lori Bruce, a Wawa spokeswoman, said the company does not comment on pending litigation or matters specific to an employee. 

"We can say, however, that we support and celebrate our diverse associate and customer population," she said.

The company has already been sued this year by former employees who claimed the chain had not paid them fairly for overtime.