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Cracker Barrel restaurants agreed Monday to modernize their training and management practices after the Justice Department accused the nation-style chain of wide-spread discrimination against black diners within 50 locations. A civil rights investigation learned that black diners at Cracker Barrels in seven Southern states were routinely given tables aside from whites, seated after white customers who arrived later, and given poor service, the department said in stating the settlement.

Managers allowed white servers to refuse to wait on black patrons, and blacks received less favorable treatment than whites when they complained about service, investigators found. Interviews with dozens of employees suggested that managers ”often directed, participated in, or condoned the discriminatory behavior,” the department said.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a chain situated in Tennessee which has 497 locations nationwide and is renowned for its country-style cooking and folksy retail stores, denied the accusations in a lawsuit the Justice Department filed on Monday in Georgia. Nevertheless in a binding agreement filed with the lawsuit, the organization consented to wide-ranging steps to combat discrimination against black diners. Among them are new training programs, random testing by undercover diners, the posting of nondiscrimination statements on menus, as well as the hiring of your outside auditor.

The agreement ”moves forward in a direction we had been already moving,” said Julie Davis, a company spokeswoman. She stated that while Cracker Barrel failed to believe the accusations, it consented to the six-point plan partly in order to avoid ”protracted, distracting, costly, multiyear litigation.”

The laws under that the suit was brought did not allow the department to seek money. But lately some 100 blacks have pressed discrimination claims and therefore are seeking money from the company in four lawsuits in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and N . C .. Stores there as well as in Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia were subjects from the department investigation.

”It’s shocking that something such as this still happens 4 decades right after the passage of civil rights legislation,” said Heidi Doerhoff, a Washington lawyer active in the Arkansas and Mississippi lawsuits. ”It harkens returning to the rear-of-the-bus treatment of African-Americans.”

Ms. Doerhoff said the widespread discrimination detected from the department was like the experiences of the lots of plaintiffs. One black employee with a Cracker Barrel in Mississippi claimed that white waitresses kaiypp pay her $3 per table to serve their black customers, Ms. Doerhoff said. Along with a black diner claimed that as he complained to some manager that whites were treated better, he was told he ought to go to Burger King, she said.

Her one disappointment, Ms. Doerhoff said, was that Cracker Barrel ”is unwilling to admit that it’s done anything wrong.” ”They’re still fighting tooth and nail against each of the private plaintiffs,” she said. In past months, some civil rights advocates and Democrats in Congress have accused the Bush administration of failing to aggressively pursue civil rights cases, particularly those involving patterns of corporate misconduct, and they said they worried that cases like Cracker Barrel’s were allowed to lag.

But R. Alexander Acosta, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, stated that the agreement filed on Monday demonstrated the Justice Department’s resolve. ”Where we find evidence, while we did here, that individuals for any race are receiving anything lower than full and equal access to public accommodations, we will act,” Mr. Acosta said. The N.A.A.C.P. along with other civil rights advocates stated that the requirements imposed on Cracker Barrel sent a strong message but that this test from the company’s image will be whether or not the plaintiffs won money.

”It’s unclear if this will be a huge black eye,” said John Relman, a legal representative whose discrimination lawsuits against the Denny’s restaurant chain in the early 1990’s helped lead to a $54 million settlement. ”What happens with those lawsuits will truly determine whether Cracker Barrel gains the type of notoriety that Denny’s did.”

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