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Black whiskey maker sues Diageo for discrimination at Bulleit

“Being the only black person in a bourbon company is a microcosm of what it’s like to be the only African American in any industry,” Samara Rivers, president of the Black Bourbon Society, said in an interview. “It was like they were saying, ‘Fine, that’s the first,’ but they didn’t highlight or celebrate her in that role.”

After the success of Blenders’ Select in early 2020, Ms. Major’s public profile grew rapidly, but that was short-lived. The Covid shutdown ended her promotional tour, an unexpected twist which Ms Major said coincided with a campaign by the company to shelve her.

The lawsuit also alleges that the company began refusing interview requests for her and prohibited her from speaking publicly without her approval.

Ms. Major argues it was retaliation for her speaking out. According to a Diageo spokeswoman, it would have been unfair to ask her to publicly represent the company when she was in conflict with her, and that requiring pre-approval for press interviews is company policy. business.

In August 2020, Ms. Major retained a lawyer, demanding an increase in compensation; two months later, she entered into mediation with the company.

The talks came to nothing and in June 2021, after developing hypertension, Ms Major resigned – what she considers, in her lawsuit, to be a case of ‘constructive dismissal’, a form of unfair dismissal in which a company makes an employee’s situation so unbearable. that she is forced to resign.

Ms Major has since been without regular work, and although her lawsuit does not specify the damages sought, she previously rejected a $300,000 offer from Diageo to leave the company. But she said the costume wasn’t about the money.