In 2011, a former employee filed a racial discrimination lawsuit alleging that he was eventually fired after repeatedly having a black man work the cash register instead of putting him in a less visible location and having “pretty young girls” be the cashiers, as requested by supervisors.  The plaintiff also said he was fired after requesting another month off after returning from 3 months of sick leave.  Panera said it “does not discriminate based on national origin, race or sex,” and that the plaintiff “was terminated because he had used all of his medical leave and was unable to return to work. “ The plaintiff worked in a store owned by franchisee Sam Covelli, who also owns the stores that were involved in the 2003 racial discrimination lawsuit.  Covelli Enterprises is the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread with nearly 300 stores in northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Florida.  The lawsuit was settled in June 2012.