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Race Discrimination Class Action Settled


While it can be difficult to prove discrimination in the work place, if a plaintiff has enough evidence, they can make a compelling case. According to a lawsuit against Covelli Enterprises, an Ohio franchisee who runs several Panera stores in western Pennsylvania, as many as 300 current and former employees could be eligible for compensation.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Guy Vines, an African American former employee of Covelli Enterprises, Covelli allegedly restricted black employees to working in the back preparing food or washing dishes where they were out of view of customers and denied them promotions.

The lawsuit actually began, not with Vines, but with a separate lawsuit filed by a white former employee, Scott Donatelli, who was fired from his position as manager of Covelli’s store in the upscale Pittsburgh suburb of Mount Lebanon in September 2011. The company claimed in their court papers that Donatelli violated company policies regarding medical leave but Donatelli’s lawsuit alleged that he was fired for refusing to stop giving cash register duties to Vines.

Although Vines was not identified in Donatelli’s lawsuit, his name was revealed when he filed his own lawsuit and came forward as the employee mentioned in Donatelli’s lawsuit. Vines worked for the company beginning in November 2009 and quit in August 2011 over his alleged mistreatment.

The court has preliminarily approved a settlement in this case of more than $76,000. Guy Vines will receive $10,000 for being the lead plaintiff and Cordes, his legal representation, will receive $66,000 in legal fees. The rest has yet to be determined based on how many employees file claims. Each employee who worked for more than a year and applied for and was denied a promotion is eligible for 70 cents for each hour they worked after their first year. An employee who worked 40 hours per week for a year could be entitled to as much as $1,456 in compensation.

Covelli Enterprises continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists it is an equal opportunity employer. It is settling to avoid the costs of defending the lawsuit in court and has also pledged not to discriminate against employees in the future.

The Chicago wage and hour attorneys at Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience litigating wage and hour cases including overtime, vacation pay, meal breaks, and tips. We handle cases in DuPage, Cook, Kane, Will, Lake and McHenry Counties. If you believe you have been wrongfully denied wages, contact a Naperville overtime attorney today at 312-869-4095 or fill out our online form.