Bar Owner Must Pay $176,000 in Firings

From Staff and Wire Reports

An Oceanside bar owner who fired all of his black staff when he changed from a disco format to country-Western music has been ordered to pay more than $176,000 in damages to four ex-employees.

In a unanimous ruling made public Monday, the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission said that Treno Munoz had violated state job discrimination laws. The commission also told Munoz to offer to rehire the two bartenders, one waitress and one doorman.

Munoz could not be reached for comment on whether he would appeal the ruling.

The commission said Munoz, who had owned the Townhouse bar in downtown Oceanside since 1957, often used racial slurs and made derogatory remarks about blacks.

In April, 1985, Munoz told his staff he was converting from disco to country-western and firing all of his black employees "because they would bring in black customers, and he did not want blacks in the club," the commission said. The bar's name was changed to the Rusty Spur.

Besides the two bartenders, waitress and doorman, Munoz also fired his black disc jockey and a white bartender, who he "believed associated with blacks and would attract black customers," the commission said. It said he kept another white bartender and hired 27 people over the next 18 months, none of them black.

The identities of the former employees were not immediately known.

There was also no evidence to support Munoz's claim that blacks would not fit the new country-western format, the commission said.

The commission said one of the fired employees lost her house and two others were evicted from their apartments, one of them forcibly. The fourth got another job at higher pay.

The damages include $36,525 in lost income for three of the former employees, $115,000 for emotional distress for all four, and $25,000 in punitive damages, divided among the four, for "oppressive and malicious" conduct. Munoz also was ordered to notify his employees of their right to be protected against racial discrimination and harassment.

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