Interstate Bakeries Corp., the largest U.S. bread and snack cake company, was accused of racial discrimination in a $260-million lawsuit filed by 15 black employees of the company's San Francisco bakery. The suit in San Francisco County Superior Court accuses the maker of Wonder Bread and Hostess Twinkies of failing to hire and promote black workers, fostering a hostile work environment replete with racial slurs and obscene insults, and treating minority employees inequitably. Of almost 700 employees at the plant and two area distribution centers, only 31 are black, and none ranks higher than foreman, the suit alleges. It didn't give a basis for the $260 million in damages, a figure that would dwarf other class-action settlements in similar cases. The Kansas City, Mo.-based company declined to comment on the specific charges in the suit. "We do not discriminate on any basis. There is no variance in that," Interstate spokesman Mark Dirkes said. The company's shares slipped 6 cents to close at $33.63 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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