$6.2 Million Partial Settlement Reached in Union Discrimination Case

A federal court has granted final approval for a $6.2 million partial settlement for black and Hispanic sheet metal workers who suffered discrimination by their union, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced yesterday.

The EEOC and the State and City of New York, along with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., and the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP representing the minority members, had sued Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association in New York City (Local 28) for underpaying the workers because of their race or national origin for many years.

The EEOC says this practice has been worsening in recent years. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race and national origin discrimination by labor organizations. The partial settlement was reached through intense negotiations between the plaintiffs and Local 28.

Judge Robert L. Carter of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of the settlement, which would compensate minority members of Local 28 for lost wages for the years 1984 to 1991. The parties have also agreed to significant changes in the union's job referral system as well as monitoring systems aimed at equalizing members' access to job opportunities. Litigation of the remaining claims of union members who suffered discrimination after 1991 continues, as do settlement negotiations, in an effort to obtain a prompt and fair resolution of those remaining claims.

"We hope that these developments are an indication that, with the recent change in leadership, the union has decided, after many years of costly litigation, to work with the court and the plaintiffs in obeying the court orders and to begin to resolve the outstanding claims against it," said Spencer Lewis, district director of the EEOC's New York office.

"We are thrilled that our clients are finally on the path to receive compensation for some of the discrimination they suffered,' said Michael L. Foreman, director of the Employment Discrimination Project of the Lawyers' Committee. "Without the tireless commitment of our co- counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, who have devoted significant time and resources to this pro bono case, this outcome would not have been possible."

For further information, visit www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/e-race/index.html.

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