ATLANTA (AP) _ The NAACP has asked a judge to expand a discrimination suit against Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, accusing the restaurant chain of denying promotions and equal pay to black employees and forcing most of them to work out of customers' sight.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Tuesday that the civil rights organization was joining the lawsuit, which was filed in July on behalf of 12 current and former employees.

A companion case, also filed in the Rome, Ga., division of the U.S. District Court, claims Cracker Barrel does not pay servers minimum wage for performing non-serving duties.

Cracker Barrel, a 391-restaurant chain based in Lebanon, Tenn., denied the allegations.

Norm Hill, senior vice president of human resources, said the company _ with 40,000 employees _ has strict equal employment policies.

``While we cannot yet discuss the details of all the claims that have been made since these charges are so new, we are confident that what will become clear is that the claims are way off base and present a highly distorted picture of our company,'' he said.

In 1991 the company fired several employees based on a policy banning homosexual workers. The policy was rescinded after gay-rights groups protested.

The racial discrimination lawsuit claims Cracker Barrel denies blacks desirable jobs, promotions, training and management positions. The suit also alleges that Cracker Barrel tolerates, and sometimes supports, racist comments and behavior.

The plaintiffs want the court to require Cracker Barrel to restructure its hiring and paying procedures, reimburse attorneys' fees and pay employees back wages.