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Friday, September 12, 2008

ATT Loses Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Sales representative awarded more than $400,000 August 12, 2008 -- A Dallas jury ruled AT&T Corp. racially discriminated against a worker and ordered the telecommunications giant to pay damages in the lawsuit. Lakecious Edwards, an AT&T sales representative, was awarded $411,339 late last month after the jury found race was a motivating factor in the company's repeated failure to promote her. The jury also found that AT&T created a hostile work environment and retaliated against Edwards when she complained. "Ms. Edwards and her coworkers suffered pervasive discrimination and did everything they could to work within AT&T's system," says Stephen Drinnon, Edwards' attorney. The telecommunications giant says they had no wrongdoing in the matter. "We are confident that we have done nothing wrong and we are exploring our options regarding a possible appe al," says Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman. Furthermore, he says "AT&T has an excellent track record when it comes to the company's fair treatment of minority employees. For AT&T, diversity and inclusion will always be top priorities." According to Drinnon, Edwards was passed over on three separate occasions for promotions that went to white employees, two of whom were under disciplinary review. When another job opening was posted, the same manager falsely told AT&T managers that Edwards was not interested in the job. An eight-year-employee of AT&T, Edwards continues to work at the company. "She continues to fear loosing her job," Drinnon says. Drinnon contends that complaints that were filed went through a third party vendor and weren't properly investigated. He said the manager named in the complaints wasn't interviewed by investigators or reprimanded for her actions. Subsequently, AT&T ruled "no finding o f discrimination" for nine complaints that had been filed against the manager. Drinnon says Edwards and others who filed complaints were "never told that the case had been closed or the conclusion they reached," he adds.

Also last month, *BLACK ENTERPRISE* named AT&T one of the 40 best companies for diversity. "The companies in its special report demonstrated strength and outperformed their peers in one or more of four key categories: supplier diversity, senior management, board involvement, and employee base," the magazine said in a press release announcing the list.

Copyright (c) 2008 Earl G. Graves, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

5 High Ranking Black Officers in Minneapolis to Receive $2 Million Dollar Settlement

If approved, the officers would share $2 million and the city would more closely oversee diversity and race issues.

By DAVID CHANEN and TERRY COLLINS, Star Tribune staff writers

Does anyone else find it comical that when it came to fighting their cause these guys chose white lawyers? They had a chance to help thier … read more community by using minority lawyers and didn't. I'm sure there has to be some very good black attornys in the twin cities. Perhaps these guys racially profiled attornys.

Minnesota bridges rated: An interactive map of bridges that are "structurally deficient," "functionally obsolete" or have gusset plates like those on the I-35W bridge.

Five high-ranking black police officers would share $2 million in a proposed settlement of their lawsuit alleging a long history of discrimination against black officers in the Minneapolis Police Department, sources familiar with the suit said Tuesday.

The suit against the city and Police Chief Tim Dolan alleged that such actions became more institutionalized after Dolan became chief in 2007. Its filing in December was among a number of disputes that highlighted racial divisions in the Police Department and intensified criticism from the community.

If approved by the Minneapolis City Council on Friday, the proposed agreement could help ease those tensions, which have simmered for a year and a half.

The settlement would involve a payment to the officers and the creation of a unit headed by a deputy chief to oversee diversity and race issues, according to the sources.

Two of the officers who filed the federal suit, Lt. Don Harris and Lt. Lee Edwards, were demoted by Dolan. A third officer, Sgt. Charlie Adams, was transferred from the homicide unit over a series of insubordination incidents.

Several black officers met with the director of the city's civil rights department in September to voice their concerns. But the director dismissed the allegations and later publicly said they were "disgruntled cops near the end of their careers," the suit said.

The other officers named in the suit are Lt. Medaria Arradondo and Sgt. Dennis Hamilton. The officers in the suit have an average of about 20 years with the department.

Federal probe plays key role

A recent federal investigation involving Edwards that found no criminal wrongdoing on his part may have intensified the city's desire to settle the suit. The department had forwarded to the FBI a tip it had received that several white and black officers were leaking confidential information, the sources said. But it appears only Edwards and Mike Roberts, who are black, were seriously investigated, sources said.

Investigators had a tape of Edwards allegedly providing a man with confidential driver's license information, the sources said. They also had the man on tape trying to get Edwards to give out confidential information on a fake case set up in the department's computer system, the sources said.

It was eventually determined that Edwards didn't do anything criminally wrong, the sources said. He may still be disciplined by the department in connection with the federal investigation.

Last week, Roberts was indicted on corruption charges after he allegedly received $100 on two occasions for giving confidential information to an undercover informant who claimed to be a gang member. Roberts, 57, a 29-year veteran of the department, was relieved of duty in April after the allegations came to light.

Attorney John Klassen, who is representing the five black officers, declined to comment Tuesday.

Alleged pattern of treatment

The suit claims that black officers received fewer training, detail and overtime opportunities, as well as fewer appointments to key units, than white officers. It also claims the department fails in several diversity areas required by a mediation agreement brokered with the help of the Justice Department.

The suit details patterns of alleged discrimination involving each of the five officers. Arradondo, head of the Fourth Precinct's community response team, was refused overtime pay for the key role he played with critical incidents, the suit alleges. Harris, a Fourth Precinct investigator, was passed over for appointments in favor of white officers, the suit said.

While several white homicide officers received more than 150 hours of overtime after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Adams was never informed of the overtime opportunities until the last days of the detail, the suit said. Hamilton was fired for misconduct that for some white officers resulted in less discipline, the suit said.

Before their reassignment by Dolan, Harris had been one of the department's three deputy chiefs and Edwards was in charge of the city's Fourth Precinct, which encompasses north Minneapolis. The only black officer with a rank higher than lieutenant is Deputy Chief Valerie Wurster, who was appointed by Bill McManus, Dolan's predecessor.

About 18 percent of the department's employees are people of color, the highest in the department's history.

There have been three settlement sessions, the last one Tuesday. A settlement was apparently reached during a session Thursday, but Mayor R.T. Rybak wanted to know more about the federal case involving Edwards before moving the proposed settlement forward, the sources said.

Rybak hasn't said whether he endorses the settlement. Jeremy Hanson, the mayor's spokesman, said Rybak and the council will receive an update from staff members and discuss the issue Friday.

The council will discuss the settlement during a closed session Friday, and a vote could follow.

It's unclear how the $2 million would be distributed among the five officers. Besides the money and creation of the new diversity unit, the settlement would require an independent audit of the department's diversity efforts, the sources said.

dchanen@startribune.com • 612-673-4465 tcollins@startribune.com • 612-673-1790

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Xerox Settles Lawsuit Over Alleged Race Discrimination

By STEPHEN SINGER
AP Business Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Xerox Corp. and representatives of current and former black sales representatives have settled a class action lawsuit accusing the officer equipment manufacturer of race discrimination.

The settlement, which was announced Thursday, won preliminary approval from U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn, N.Y. It would require Xerox to pay $12 million to 1,100 former and current employees and includes legal fees, said Diane Bradley, a lawyer who represented the employees.

The $12 million was put aside in the second quarter of 2006, Xerox said.

The company also agreed to establish a task force of Xerox employees to ensure that black sales representatives are compensated in a nondiscriminatory manner by assessing how sales territories are assigned and other issues.

Xerox denied it engaged in policies or practices of unlawful discrimination or retaliation or other unlawful conduct.

"However, Xerox believes it is in the best interest of its shareholders and employees to settle the lawsuit, bringing to an end the protracted and costly litigation," the company said in a statement.

Anne Mulcahy, Xerox's chief executive, said in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press that she was pained to settle the lawsuit and that Xerox's record on diversity "is a source of corporate pride and competitive advantage."

A spokesman said Xerox would not discuss the matter further.

Bradley said a confidentiality agreement bars discussion of the preliminary settlement.

The lawsuit, filed in 2001 in federal court in Brooklyn, was brought on behalf of black sales representatives from New York, California, Georgia and Texas. Gleeson approved class action status in March 2004.

The workers said they were assigned to less profitable territories than white co-workers or were assigned to territories based on their race. They also contend they were passed over for more lucrative territories, promotions, and were denied commissions they had earned.

The lawsuit cited Frank Warren, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, who was assigned a territory in the New York borough of the Bronx that required a car. When he notified Xerox that the territory would be a hardship because he did not have a car, he allegedly was told by a vice president-general manager that he was assigned to the Bronx because "blacks and the Bronx go hand in hand."

___

On the Net:

www.xerox.com

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lockheed to Pay $2.5 Million In Racial Discrimination Case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday announced its largest-ever settlement for an individual racial discrimination case -- $2.5 million -- against Lockheed Martin of Bethesda.

Lockheed agreed to pay Charles Daniels, a black aviation electrician who said he was subjected to racial epithets and threatened with bodily harm by white employees while repairing military aircraft.

Daniels, 45, "was the target of persistent verbal abuse by coworkers and a supervisor whose racial slurs and offensive language included calling him the N-word, and saying, 'We should do to blacks what Hitler did to the Jews,' and if the South had won then this would be a better country," the EEOC said in a statement. "Daniels was also subjected to multiple physical threats, such as lynching and other death threats after he reported the harassment."

The alleged harassment took place while Daniels worked at Lockheed plants in Florida, Washington state and Hawaii.

The EEOC said Lockheed "failed to discipline the harassers and instead allowed the discrimination against Daniels to continue unabated during his two-year tenure even though the company was aware of the unlawful conduct."

EEOC attorneys said that a Lockheed human resources director said that she investigated Daniels's complaints and confirmed that racial comments were made. But the director dismissed them, saying, "Boys will be boys."

Daniels saw it differently.

"It was humiliating to be called names," said Daniels, who left the company in 2001 and filed suit that same year. "It makes you frustrated because you know what the laws are."

William Tamayo, an EEOC regional attorney in San Francisco, said Lockheed agreed to fire and permanently bar Daniels's harassers from employment at the company. "It sends a powerful message that racism cannot and must not be tolerated."

Lockheed strongly disagreed with the EEOC's characterization of the case. "We regret that the EEOC, for whatever reason, has chosen to distort the factual record in this matter," said Joe Stout, a company spokesman.

"We chose to settle the allegations from six and seven years ago to enable all parties to move on," Stout said. He blamed the incident on "a small number of first-line employees in a small, single operating unit of the company." He said company officials took "appropriate remedial actions based on the facts presented at that time" when they were confronted with the allegations.

The settlement must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Hawaii. In addition to compensating Daniels, the settlement will cover attorney fees and other costs.

Daniels said his problems at Lockheed started in 1999 during a stint in Jacksonville, Fla. Daniels, the only African American in a small unit of workers, said he was among the highest skilled and best paid electricians on the job.

One day, he said, a white co-worker from South Carolina said he was disgruntled because protesters forced the state to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol. He said the country would have been better off had the South won the Civil War. A second co-worker responded that African Americans should have been exterminated, the way Adolf Hitler dealt with Jews.

When he and his co-workers moved to another job site at Whidbey Island, Wash., the co-workers threatened Daniels after learning that he complained about their behavior, he said. "They told me they knew some people in the Aryan Brotherhood and they could make me disappear," he said.