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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whirlpool Must Pay Black Woman $1 Million

Date: Thursday, December 31, 2009, 6:22 am
By: F. Finley McRae

Whirlpool Corporation, the leading producer of major household appliances, must pay over $1 million to a black woman who was harassed for months, then brutally attacked by a white male co-worker at its Tennessee plant, a federal court judge has ruled.

In his 30-page ruling, Senior Judge John T. Nixon said his decision was based on Carlotta Freeman's "emotional and psychological injuries caused by Whirlpool's ineffective response to her repeated complaints of racial and sexual harassment." The judge presides over the Nashville Division of the United States District Court for Middle Tennessee.

Freeman,"once a cheerful, upbeat woman, became increasingly withdrawn" as a direct result of her attack, according to several medical experts who testified during the bench trial. The attack also left her with chronic, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Now, the judge found, "she can no longer participate in normal activities, including grocery shopping or attending church because she has panic attacks." Since 2004, "she's been in mental health treatment, yet her physicians believe Freeman, 51, will not be able to work again," Nixon's ruling states.

Freeman's ordeal began in January 2004, when she was taunted with "sexually explicit and racially charged statements" from Willie Baker, the white co-worker. Included in them were words in a song he sang to her every day: "I want to f--- you when I wake up every morning and I sing this song about you," Nixon said.

Freeman, an assembly line worker at Whirlpool's LaVergne plant (which was closed last year), told Baker to "leave me alone." Undeterred, Baker continued his barrage and even followed Freeman to the employee break area, where he spewed a steady stream of graphic, lurid desires.

Although Freeman repeatedly complained to her director supervisor, Charlie Fisher, who is white, about Baker's comments and behavior, he did nothing to stop them, according to the ruling. Nor did Fisher "investigate Freeman's allegations, discuss them with Baker or confront him in any way," Nixon wrote.

On March 22, Nixon noted, "Baker used racial slurs while on the line, directing comments such as "I'm tired of you n------s" and "I'm killing you black motherf--kers" at Freeman and her black co-worker, Lillian Lillard. Freeman told Kim Wheeler, a white worker, she felt threatened. Wheeler, in turn, reported Baker's comments to Fisher.

He called Baker, Freeman and Lillard into his office separately; Manufacturing Supervisor Jimmy Lovelace and union steward Richard Eskildsen were also present at each meeting. Fisher told Freeman and Baker to ignore each other and reprimanded Lillard for using her cell phone on the line.

Despite Fisher's warning, Baker approached Freeman again, began speaking and became angry when she told him Fisher forbade any conversation between them. Freeman walked away from Baker, returned to Fisher and reported that Baker has violated his order.

This time, however, Fisher did not offer a promise to "do something." Instead, he advised Freeman to "just go ahead and f--k him and get it over with. Then maybe he would leave you alone."

Ironically, four days later, on March 26, Baker told Fisher he "felt harassed" by his co-workers (but apparently did not name them), and said he was "afraid that someone would get hurt and that he, Baker, would lose his job." Fisher "assured Baker that he would take care of the situation. However, he did nothing to address Baker's concerns," Nixon observed in his ruling.

Later that day, Baker, in a conversation with Fred Contreras, the Director of Human Resources, claimed he "felt threatened by Freeman and that he had already reported this to Fisher." Contreras subsequently said he didn't believe Baker, but nonetheless called Curt Gamauf, the Human Resources Manager, to appraise him of Baker's .....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama Administration's Immigration Department - A Bastion of Discrimination Against African American Managers?

By Dr. Steven B. DavidSon, TX -The nation has selected its first African American president. However, the president has inherited a bastion of discrimination in the Federal Government according Dr. Steven B. DavidSon. DavidSon, who has worked in the Immigration Department since 1998 with a federal career for 35 years, has filed a class complaint against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) alleging that African-Americans have been subject to individual and systemic discrimination for management positions.

According to DavidSon, Immigration and Naturalization operations have an extensive history, but without a record of African-American managers in regional offices. Nationwide, the regional offices have approximately 200 employees with about forty managers. According to DavidSon the USCIS organization, which was transitioned into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Adjudication operation responsible for immigrant benefits. Apparently, regions were reconstituted with the new organization, but with the same results, no African-American managers.

DavidSon's complaint cites the Regional office in Dallas, Texas where he is employed. He identifies the office as an example where highly qualified African-American candidates have been passed by less qualified white candidates. "We are not talking about disgruntled complainers, low-performers, uneducated, and inexperienced candidates here." DavidSon's complaint alleges USCIS managers have continued the discriminatory practices of the old INS organization. The complaint cites USCIS' Management Directive 715 reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where it discloses that minorities are underrepresented in high grade positions, and official and management positions. It also discloses that African Americans are terminated disproportionately. The complaint further cites several other personnel practices adversely affecting African Americans. Davidson continued, "Considering that African Americans in grades 14 and 15 are not nearly as underrepresented in the Department of Homeland Security as-a-whole, their under-representation in USCIS regional offices is revealing." Asked about any personal fears, DavidSon is resolute. "Retaliation in any of its forms is a major concern, but we must stay the course."

DavidSon managed one of the nation's largest federal, field-level Civil Rights, EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) programs in the early 1980s at the Naval Air Rework Facility in Alameda, California. There he witnessed first-hand a precedent setting class complaint, Moses Saunders vs. Department of Navy.

"I never thought I'd ever witness anything so deplorable again. It is the most unfortunate organizational malady any segment of a workforce can experience. And a complaint of this nature is the kind of organizational virus that can spread like a Santa Anta wild fire." According to DavidSon, immigration offices are practically in every urban area in the United States, but the representation of African-American managers is so poor, the complaint could be amended to cover the whole department. DavidSon cites EEO reports, which disclose that civil rights complaints cost the federal government millions-a-year where managers are not transparent, manipulate the promotional system, and resort to vague or highly subjective decision criteria to mask discriminatory bias.

Concerning the status of the complaint DavidSon continues, "The complaint is before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for certification consideration, and the Office of Civil Rights and Inclusion at the Department of Homeland Security. Ironically, the Office of Civil Rights is typically where attorneys will defend the agency's practices as opposed to using the experience as a serious opportunity to institute lasting improvements. According to Washington DC area Attorneys Michael Snider, and Morris Fischer the chances of the agency deciding in favor of complainants is 'next to nil.'"

"Our desire is to see organizational improvements, and to make-whole injured parties. Nevertheless, the fact that something like this could exist in the federal government or anywhere should be appalling to conscientious national leaders, and particularly the White House."

CONTACT:
Deborah Green
401 E. Corporate Suite 100
Lewisville, Texas 75057
469-948-4776

Thursday, December 3, 2009

AARD Protests Discrimination at Bloomingdales

Washington, DC - Americans Against Racism and Discrimination (AARD), held a protest at Bloomingdale's on Black Friday in response to current and former employee's complaints of harassment and discrimination by the retailer. The employees, all African-American, say they experienced hostile and extremely humiliating acts of harassment and discrimination at Bloomingdale's by its management that included; verbal harassment/badgering, job discrimination, threats and race and gender discrimination.

Several employees say they reached out for help and complained to company CEO Michael Gould, but the company retaliated with more harassment, including forcing some of them out of their jobs after they complained.

The AFL-CIO Local 400 union was notified in an effort to curtail the harassment and investigate. Following an investigation, the union filed a grievance against the company and recommended that Bloomingdale's manager, Julia Palmer, issue a formal apology for her behavior in harassing several African-Americans in July 2009, but Bloomingdale's and Ms. Palmer refused.

"'Placism' is what it's called today...'Placism' is the new racism," says a former employee and top-performer at Bloomingdale's Chevy Chase, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "If you're Black, Bloomingdale's means for you to stay in your place," says the employee, who even recently made a trip to Bloomingdale's corporate offices in New York to complain, only to be informed by VP William Hearst that the company has no intentions of changing.

Another former employee and top-performer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says that when he asked VP William Hearst why the company refused to hire any Black men as general managers at any of its stores or in senior level management, Hearst made a special trip to Washington where he stripped him of his title as Giorgio Armani specialist and told him to quit, or be fired.

"Bloomingdale's is a racist company that harasses and discriminates against African-Americans, especially Black men," says the employee. He went on to say that Bloomingdale's is "...a revolving door of racial harassment and discrimination against Blacks, and is a place where Black excellence, especially among men, is loathed."


CONTACT:
Leanna Nicks
202-374-1718
AARDUSA@yahoo.com

Monday, November 30, 2009

City pays $145,000 in bias case

Former ITS director claimed reverse discrimination played role in firing.

Updated 11:26 PM Thursday, November 19, 2009

DAYTON — The Dayton City Commission has agreed to pay a $145,000 settlement to an employee who claims reverse discrimination played a role in his firing.

William E. Hill, once the city’s director of Information and Technology Services, is white. He was fired by former City Manager Rashad Young, who is black.

City officials and Young declined to comment on the award. Hill’s attorney also did not respond to a request for an interview.

Hill’s personnel file and a 13-page investigative report commissioned by the city pieced together with the lawsuit Hill filed in Montgomery County Commons Pleas Court tell a tale of two men who started out working cordially together.

Hill worked for the city since 1980, including 17 years as a police officer. In 1997, he became the director of ITS.

Hill also continued activities as a sworn officer first with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and later as a special deputy in Greene County.

Young, then deputy director of ITS and still working his way up the ranks at City Hall, reported to Hill.

But, before he left to take a job in Cincinnati in 2002, Young was named acting assistant city manager. Hill claims Young urged him to hire his step-grandfather, Charles Evans, as deputy director of ITS, according to the lawsuit. Hill acted on Young’s suggestion.

When Young returned to Dayton in 2005 as an assistant city manager, he was given authority over the ITS department, including Hill and Evans.

“Caught between grandfather and grandson, Hill began to experience difficulties with Evans and in his relationship with those above him in city management,” the lawsuit states.

Problems escalated when Hill issued a reprimand to Evans for violation of the city’s sick leave policy.

“Evans exploded in response, accused Hill of being a racist, indicated he would take the matter to his grandson, and threatened that Hill’s employment would be terminated ...,” according to the lawsuit.

A 2005 work review in Hill’s employment file found him to be superior in terms of technical competence, but “unacceptable in terms of judgment, management style and execution.”

Then-City Manager James Dinneen concluded Hill should be fired based on these deficiencies. Young persuaded Dinneen to give Hill a poor review and no raise.

In March 2005, city officials told Hill he must quit working for the Greene County sheriff or lose his city job, in accordance with the City Charter.

Hill claimed former City Manager Valerie Lemmie orally promised him he could remain a sworn officer and he appealed the decision to the city’s Code of Ethics Committee (of which Young was a member). Hill lost.

Federal investigators entered the fray in 2006 seizing computers, disc drives, VCR tapes, compact discs and DVDs from Evans’ office and home. He pleaded guilty in United States District Court in 2008 to one count of possession of child pornography.

Hill also came under investigation — by city officials — when an employee complained that inappropriate e-mails were being sent throughout the city e-mail system.

Dinneen put Hill on administrative leave on March 28, 2006.

“... I believe Mr. Hill did not fully cooperate in the March 28 investigation of the circumstances regarding his participation in the inappropriate e-mail traffic, and that this lack of cooperation, is, alone, an adequate reason for termination of his employment, if you should choose to exercise your discretion in this matter,” Paul Hallinan of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur stated in an investigative report to Young.

Young hired Hallinan on July 14, 2006, after Dinneen left Dayton to take a job in Florida.

Young signed off on Hill’s firing on Oct. 5, 2006.

City records show that during Young’s tenure as a manager in Dayton, 50 percent of the 24 employees he hired where white men.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Phila. black firefighters sue union, cite racism

By Troy Graham

Inquirer Staff Writer

In a federal lawsuit filed yesterday, an organization of African American firefighters accused the Philadelphia firefighters union of being "racially harassing and abusive" to blacks.

The lawsuit said union leadership was dominated by members of a predominantly white firefighters organization dedicated to ending a 25-year-old federal consent decree that paved the way for the hiring of many black firefighters.

The members of that group, the Concerned American Fire Fighters Association (CAFFA), have pushed their agenda at the union, the lawsuit said. It noted that the union's December bargaining proposal to the city included the request that "any and all quota-based hiring practices" be eliminated.

"They're using my union dues to do it," said Kenneth Greene, president of Club Valiants, the black firefighters group. "It's a slap in the face."

The president of Concerned American Fire Fighters, Mike Bresnan, said the proposal to eliminate quota-based hiring subsequently was dropped, in part because an arbitration panel has no standing to rule on the issue.

"The proposal came from the membership," he said. "It's a democratic process."

The lawsuit said the Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union, Local 22, has no black officers and only one black employee - a janitor. Union meetings have become so divisive that black firefighters no longer attend.

"African Americans have no voice in the union," the suit said.

The lawsuit also cited numerous postings from the union's private, Internet message board that mock black firefighters as lazy and stupid, and use "ebonics" to denigrate blacks.

Among other remedies, the suit askes a federal judge to appoint a civil-rights monitor to oversee the local until it is no longer "a racially hostile union."

The suit seeks class-action status for the more than 500 black Philadelphia firefighters.

Bill Gault, president of Local 22, said the allegation that the union was racist was "completely not true." He acknowledged there was only one black janitor working for the union, but said "the ladies who work for me in the office are firefighters' wives."

"Two of them have been there longer than I've been on the job," he said.

Gault had not seen a copy of the lawsuit yesterday and could not comment at length. He said he simply wanted "everybody on the same page in the contract negotiations with the city."

At the heart of the suit is the philosophical battle over the 1984 federal consent decree, which mandated the hiring of more black firefighters and replaced an entrance exam deemed to discriminate against black applicants.

The consent decree, which resulted from a 1974 lawsuit, was extended indefinitely by a federal court in 1999.

Some white firefighters have begun to push back against the hiring and promotion processes.

This year, the city paid a $275,000 settlement to five white lieutenants who said they were denied promotions by exams skewed to favor minority candidates.

This summer, three white candidates for the fire academy sued, arguing that they had been denied entrance in favor of less-qualified minority candidates.

Bresnan's organization has been allowed to intervene in federal court on behalf of the three in an attempt to overturn the consent decree.

"We view it as antiquated," Bresnan said. "Most of the guys getting skipped over weren't even born when the consent decree was enacted."

He also said the decree harms black firefighters, who get "stigmatized" as affirmative action hires regardless of their qualifications.

Greene, a lieutenant with Engine 73 and a 17-year veteran of the Fire Department, said the consent decree was still needed.

While blacks make up 45 percent of the city's population, they account for just 27 percent of the Fire Department, according to the lawsuit.

They also are underrepresented among ranking officers, the suit said, although the commissioner, Lloyd M. Ayers, is black.

Ayers, a former president of Club Valiants, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"No way is there parity or equality in this department," Greene said. "Based on the diversity of the city of Philadelphia, this department is not diverse at all."

Greene also said the Internet postings on the union message board prove that racism, which he likened to a fire, still exists in the department.

"To go to the union Web site and see them calling people of color 'animals' . . . it creates a problem for me as a leader," he said. "All you need is one segment of people to start it up, and it's rolling again."

Bresnan said there was "absolutely a racial division in the department, much of it over the consent decree."

Bresnan said that he, Ayers, and former union president Brian McBride met with Mayor Nutter in 2008 to discuss the consent decree. They talked about setting up meetings between CAFFA, the Valiants, and a Hispanic firefighters organization.

Those meetings were never arranged, Bresnan said.

"When you talk, stuff can be avoided, but it's just lawsuit after lawsuit," he said. "I'm still willing to meet. I think a lot of this stuff can be worked out."

The dispute over the Web-site comments echoes a lawsuit filed this summer by an organization of black police officers against Domelights.com, a now-defunct Internet forum for discussing crime and police news.

That Web site, founded by a Philadelphia police sergeant, hosted "blatantly racist" content, according to the lawsuit, which is pending.

The same lawyers, Brian and David Mildenberg, filed the Domelights and Club Valiants suits.

CAFFA was founded in Chicago in 1993 and also has a chapter in Cleveland. Until at least 2001, the lawsuit said, the Chicago chapter was known as the Caucasian American Fire Fighters Association.

The lawsuit said that at least three top union officers are members of CAFFA, though Gault is not. CAFFA and the city are named as defendants.

Bresnan said CAFFA doesn't disclose its membership. He did acknowledge that union vice president Kelvin Fong is a member, and noted that Fong is of Chinese descent.

Gault said CAFFA was just one of about "20 or 30" groups that firefighters belong to.

"Local 22 has nothing to do with CAFFA," he said. "You got the Irish kids, the Italian kids, the Polish kids. There's so many organizations."

He said he was disappointed that Greene did not give him a heads-up on the lawsuit.

"What their motivation is, I don't know," he said. "I thought we were all firefighters."

Greene, talking about when he saw the first union bargaining proposal, expressed a similar sentiment.

"I had to pray about it real hard. I was ready to blow my top. I couldn't believe someone could be so stupid," he said. "These are guys I crawled hallways with, I fought fires with."

The Philadelphia NAACP joined Club Valiants as a plaintiff in the suit, which also asks for unspecified payment in damages.

Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 215-854-2730 or tgraham@phillynews.com.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Firefighter Test Brings New Haven a Fresh Suit

Published: October 15, 2009

The city of New Haven, which the United States Supreme Court found this year to have discriminated against a group of mostly white firefighters, was hit with another federal lawsuit on Thursday, this time from a black firefighter who contends that the way the city scored a 2003 promotion test will keep him from getting the position he deserves.

Michael Briscoe, a 10-year veteran who is 37, says in his suit that the scoring was unfair because it undervalued the oral portion of the test, on which he did better. His suit, which was filed by David Rosen, the lawyer who brought the case more than 30 years ago that first helped integrate the department, contends the oral part of the test more clearly measures the skills required to do the job.

New Haven had seven vacancies for captain and seven for lieutenant when it administered the exams to 118 test-takers in 2003. The written portion counted for 60 percent of the grade and the oral part the rest.

African-Americans argued then that they were underrepresented among the high scorers, and the city never certified the results, so the promotions were never granted. That decision prompted the 2004 suit by the largely white firefighters, led by Frank Ricci, who had done well. The Supreme Court in June found in favor of Mr. Ricci and his group, and the city said Thursday that it now intended to certify the 2003 results.

In his suit, Mr. Briscoe says he scored the highest of the 77 candidates for lieutenant on the oral portion of the exam, but he expected to be only 24th from the top given the way the city weighted the two sections. His suit says that many cities place more weight on oral versus written exams.

New Haven’s corporation counsel, Victor A. Bolden, issued a statement that the city was “focused on moving forward not backwards.” He said that he expected the city to “make promotions consistent” with the list generated by the 2003 exam, but that “the city will continue to pursue better means for making future promotions in the department.”

Karen Torre, the lawyer who brought the Ricci case, issued her own statement: “It is our position that Mr. Rosen’s suit is legally baseless, untimely and filed for the improper purpose of attempting to delay my client’s promotion and the city of New Haven’s compliance with an opinion and order of the United States Supreme Court.”

Monday, October 5, 2009

Former Black WPB police officer wins discrimination lawsuit

Thu Oct 1, 2009

Former Black WPB police officer wins discrimination lawsuit, but is awarded
nothing in monetary damages

By K. Chandler, Originally posted 9/30/2009, Westside Gazette

After waiting nearly a decade for his day in court, former West Palm Beach police officer William McCray finally had his discrimination case heard, but the end results were not what anyone might have imagined.

McCray had wanted between $100,000 and $150,000 in compensatory damages for years of alleged discrimination on the force. What he got instead was a verdict in his favor from the jury, but little else.

Testifying last was Sheriff Ric Bradshaw who was the West Palm Beach Chief of Police for eight years before ending his career with the police department in 2004 after he successfully ran for Sheriff of Palm Beach County.

While the former police chief recalled warning McCray 10 years ago that he'd better "pick it up and pay attention to business," Bradshaw had problems with recalling many other incidents that McCray's attorneys Sid Garcia and Barry Silver brought up to bolster McCray's discrimination case, including the fact that 15 Black police officers had written the department alleging discrimination.

Among the issues brought before the court by the plaintiff's legal team was the double standard that allowed White officers to get away with more serious infractions, while Black officers were investigated and punished far more
severely for less serious infractions.

Case in point was former Detective Geoffrey Woodward who testified that he'd been given a two-day suspension for falsifying information to a defense lawyer during a deposition involving a man fighting a child abuse charge. By contrast, McCray — who had by then filed his discrimination suit — was terminated for allegedly lying during an Internal Affairs (IA) investigation that resulted from an incident at the 45 Street Flea Market in which a citizen filed a complaint against McCray after he'd been ticketed while parking in a no parking zone. It might be noted that after he was terminated from the WPB Police Department, McCray was later hired on as a Sheriff's deputy with Palm Beach County, Fla. which was then under the leadership of Sheriff Robert Neumann.

The real `kicker' in this long-awaited case, however, was that somehow the seven-member, all-White jury misunder-stood or misinterpreted the trial court's jury instructions and instead of awarding McCray substantial damages for the pain and suffering that resulted from harsher disciplinary actions and other proven discriminatory actions, the jury instead awarded him a mere $3,000 in economic damages to recoup lost wages.

According to Calvin Bryant — one of five police officers who won a 2004 discrimination law-suit against the City of West Palm Beach – much of the jury's confusion may have resulted from pre-trial motions forbid-ding the plaintiff's lawyers from presenting evidence or bringing up McCray's termination during the trial.

"Under all of the testimony, the jury themselves obviously came to the conclusion that McCray had been retaliated against and fired. But because of all the pre-trial maneuvering, the termination issue was excluded from the trial. But the jury, because of their own personal feelings based on evidence they heard and testimony, wanted to correct that issue."

"If there's any blame to be shared, the trial court judge himself should bear much of the responsibility for confusing the jury. A previous judge entered the order to exclude any testimony regarding McCray's termination, but Circuit Judge Donald Hafele had the power to overrule or set aside the pre-trial motions.

"There were attempts made by attorneys Garcia and Silver to get that ruling overturned or reversed before Judge Hafele, but he would not change it," stated Bryant.

Now, after all of that, McCray's lawyers may have no other recourse, but to call for another trial just to determine damages.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Former Wall Street Journal editor may pursue racial bias case

Tue Aug 18, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Wall Street Journal editor may pursue a racial discrimination case against her one-time employer, after alleging that she was fired because she is black, a federal judge has ruled.

Judge Deborah Batts of the federal district court in Manhattan said a juror could conclude that the race of Carolyn Phillips, the paper's first black assistant managing editor, was "at least one motivating factor" in decisions leading to her November 2002 dismissal after two decades at the paper.

"Plaintiff has produced sufficient circumstantial evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether intentional discrimination influenced the adverse employment decisions at issue," possibly violating federal and state law, Batts said in her 45-page order dated Monday.

Batts' ruling sets the stage for a possible trial. The judge rejected Phillips' separate claim alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. Phillips originally sought compensatory damages and $5 million of punitive damages.

The Journal at the time was owned by Dow Jones & Co and is now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

"Dow Jones does not discriminate, period," Dow Jones spokeswoman Ashley Huston said. "We are gratified the court dismissed the disability claim, and we expect to prevail on the other claim at trial."

Phillips' lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to Monday's order, Phillips had regularly received positive performance reviews as well as five merit pay increases during her tenure, but would come to feel marginalized after becoming the Journal's head of recruitment.

The judge said a juror could find that race may have been one factor behind possible dissatisfaction with Phillips' job performance expressed by the Journal's managing editor and a deputy managing editor, Paul Steiger and Daniel Hertzberg.

She also said a juror could find that those editors preferred two white candidates for various responsibilities over Phillips because of her race and that Steiger failed to assign Phillips new duties because he preferred Caucasian staff.

According to the order, Phillips also alleged that Steiger made comments to her that were or could be racial in nature.

In one such alleged instance, Phillips said he told her he felt like a "black man in Beverly Hills" after being covered with soot and ash following the September 11 attacks that ruined the Journal's New York office. Steiger contested that he ever made the comment, according to the order.

Steiger, now chief executive of the nonprofit ProPublica, said in an interview on Tuesday: "Carolyn Phillips was not discriminated against on account of her race while at the Journal. I expect a jury, when it hears all the testimony, will agree."

Hertzberg recently joined Bloomberg News as senior editor-at-large. Bloomberg spokeswoman Judith Czelusniak declined to comment.

The case is Phillips v. Dow Jones & Co, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 04-5178.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

UPS sued for back wages by Calif. employee

By Rachel Tobin Ramos

She claims UPS didn’t pay her for regularly working 10 to 20 hours per week overtime. Meza makes a salary of $51,000 annually.

Her lawyer, Steven L. Wittels, said she works in sales but does not manage people. He said her job was classified as managerial to avoid overtime pay requirements. “That’s how companies in this day and age try to evade their responsibilities under the wage and hour laws,” he said.

Wittels thinks the potential class includes about 5,000 account managers. Meza is the only plaintiff so far, he said.

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg said she couldn’t comment on the suit but added, “We value the account managers in our sales organization. There is a defined sales compensation structure. We believe they are [properly] classified as exempt and not subject to overtime.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Court: SC lawsuit against Nucor Steel can proceed

By KATRINA A. GOGGINS

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal appeals court has revived a discrimination lawsuit brought by black employees who claim they worked in a racially hostile environment at a Nucor Steel mill in South Carolina, attorneys said Tuesday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in an Aug. 7 decision that the case against the Charlotte-based manufacturer can go forward with class-action status. It has been sent back to federal district court and will be tried in Charleston, S.C.

"While this class certification doesn't mean they've won ... the decision is a victory," lead attorney Robert L. Wiggins Jr. said in a statement. "Being involved in this case as a plaintiff has taken courage, but these individuals believed that it was important to change the horrific situation at Nucor for all black employees, and not just themselves."

The lawsuit charged that racial slurs and monkey noises were broadcast over the radio system at the company's Huger mill. The plaintiffs — seven black former and current Nucor employees — also claim that racially charged e-mails depicting blacks with nooses around their necks were circulated, that some employees used racial slurs when referring to black workers and that the mill discriminated against blacks in making promotions.

Nucor executives on Tuesday called the claims "absolutely false" and unsupported. The company said it will file an appeal by the end of the week.

"Unfortunately, anybody can make any claim," said Giff Daughtridge, a Nucor Steel vice president and general manager. "These allegations are false. They're not supported by evidence. They are not supported by the record that is in the court. So, we are very confident about how the appeal is going to turn out."

There is no radio broadcasting system at the company and no evidence to support claims that there was an environment of racial hostile or that blacks weren't promoted because of discrimination, Daughtridge said.

The suit was originally filed in December 2003 in Arkansas, connected with claims of discrimination against other Nucor facilities. But the South Carolina claims were separated and transferred in 2004, attorneys said.

In its order, the appeals court said the claims "speak for themselves."

"Once, an employee held up a noose and told a black co-worker that it was for him," the order reads.

The three-judge panel also noted that the plaintiffs presented compelling, direct evidence of discrimination in promotions "such as denials of promotions when more junior white employees were granted promotions, denial of the ability to cross-train during regular shifts like their white counterparts, and a statement by a white supervisor that he would never promote a black employee."

Blacks were promoted at a far lower rate than the percentage of qualified black applicants, the court noted.

Armand Derfner, a Charleston attorney also representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the decision by the appeals court sets a precedent.

"Nationally, it is a shot in the arm for all those who have feared that our courts will not protect civil rights and civil liberties," he said. "This case is important. People talk about 'we're in a post racial society.' Well, a lot of things have improved ... but we're not there yet."

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of punitive damages and back pay for workers denied promotions they were entitled to, Derfner said.

On the Net:
http://www.nucor.com
http://www.harebrains.com/nucor
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kodak agrees to settle race discrimination lawsuit

By CAROLYN THOMPSON (AP) – Jul 15, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Eastman Kodak Co. has agreed to pay $21.4 million to settle legal action brought by black workers who claim the photography products maker paid and promoted them less than their white co-workers.

The deal was given preliminary approval by a federal judge last month, according to court documents. It would have the Rochester-based company, while admitting no wrongdoing, pay amounts ranging from $1,000 to $75,000 to 3,021 past and current workers.

The proposed settlement would end both a 2004 class-action lawsuit brought by a group called Employees Committed for Justice and a similar suit filed by other black workers in 2007.

Kodak spokesman Christopher Veronda said the company and plaintiffs had agreed not to publicly discuss the proposed settlement. He provided a written statement that said all sides "believe that this settlement represents a resolution of mutual interest."

"The parties took into account the risk of further litigation, including the potential for significant delay as well as the potential for further lengthy and expensive legal proceedings," the statement said.

As part of the deal, Kodak promised to enhance its diversity training for supervisors and said it would hire an industrial psychologist and labor statistician to review its pay and promotion policies and recommend improvements.

A final approval hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15 in federal court in Rochester.

The settlement comes a decade after Kodak paid $10 million in back wages and granted $3 million in annual raises to correct disparities in pay and promotions for black and female workers in some departments dating to 1996.

Plaintiffs in the 2004 lawsuit charged that the 1999 program did nothing to correct Kodak's discriminatory practices and accused the company of maintaining "a work environment that is hostile to its African American employees."

Plaintiffs said that in addition to being passed over for promotions, they were subject to racist comments from co-workers and supervisors and graffiti on bathroom walls, lockers and delivery trucks.

One of the plaintiffs, reached Wednesday by phone, declined to comment on the settlement, saying she had signed a confidentiality agreement.

A call to the group's lead attorney, Shanon Carson of the Philadelphia firm Berger & Montague, was not immediately returned.

On the Net:

Eastman Kodak Co.: http://www.kodak.com

African Americans Lost Ground on Fortune 500 Boards

July 21, 2009

A recent study on African Americans on boards of directors of Fortune 500 companies commissioned by The Executive Leadership Council(R) found that the number of board seats held by African Americans has declined since its inaugural board report released in 2004. The percentage of African Americans on corporate boards decreased from 8.1 in 2004 to 7.4 percent in 2008, a .7 percent decline. Four years ago, African Americans held 449 corporate board seats and today they hold 413 or thirty-six fewer.

“African Americans lost ground in the boardrooms of corporate America between 2004 and 2008,” said Dr. Ancella B. Livers, executive director of The Executive Leadership Council’s Institute for Leadership Development & Research. “The total number of board seats during the period declined as well, but not nearly as much as the number of seats held by African Americans. In light of current economic conditions and board reviews, there is an opportunity for companies to increase board diversity and reverse the downward trend.”

There were 5,556 director seats available in 2008, 16 fewer than the 5,572 available in 2004. The importance of diversity on corporate boards is likely to become more apparent as organizations recognize that changing demographics are altering the nation’s business needs. Many corporations realize the benefits they have achieved from a diverse workforce and are beginning to make inroads on their governing boards of directors. The study shows that the higher an organization is on the Fortune 500 list, the more likely it is to have African Americans on its board of directors.

“It’s been proven again and again that companies with board members who reflect gender & ethnic diversity also tend to have better returns on equity and sales,” said Carl Brooks, president and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council. “Businesses understand the economic benefits of diversity. They talk about it, but not all of them have a plan for achieving it. We expect this report to spur meaningful progress in this important area of management and governance.”

Even as many Fortune 500 organizations understand the importance of having diverse boards, gains are sometimes difficult to maintain. Since the original report in 2004, the mix of Fortune 500 companies has changed with some companies moving off the list and other, previously smaller organizations moving onto it. Companies are reevaluating their governance structure following the economic turmoil of the past year and now have the opportunity to introduce new experience and thinking on boards.

As a member of the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD), The Executive Leadership Council is a strategic partner with Catalyst, the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility (HACR) and Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (L.E.A.P.). The Alliance uses a business focus to support and advance the business interests of executive women and minorities in the workplace, including increasing the diversity pipeline in corporate America and guaranteeing the fair representation of women and minorities on corporate boards.

Corporate boards remain overwhelmingly white and male. ABD partners are determined to make the business case for inclusion on corporate boards through the belief that shareholder interests are best served by promoting the diversification of boardrooms within publicly traded U.S. companies.

This is the third publication of the Census of African Americans on Boards of Directors of Fortune 500 Companies. This census is a listing of African American board members of Fortune 500 companies and is based on data from fiscal year 2007. In addition to presenting a listing of African-American board members of Fortune 500 companies, the 2008 census examines firm and industry data of Fortune 500 companies regarding the extent to which African Americans are represented on corporate boards. It also examines geographical data of Fortune 500 companies regarding the extent to which African Americans are represented on corporate boards.

-Provides demographic profiles of African Americans serving on corporate boards.
-Presents data comparing firms with “best diversity practices” and board diversity.
-Presents a trend analysis of African American board representation from the inaugural 2004 report.

In addition to the information above, the full census report provides a comparison of African American directors of Fortune 500 companies to other underrepresented groups (i.e., women,Hispanics, Asians) serving on Fortune 500 boards and analyzes committee membership (e.g., nominations, finance, etc.) of African American directors serving on Fortune 500 boards.

Written by staff · Filed Under Business

QuikTrip to pay nearly $750,000 in back pay

WASHINGTON — Convenience store operator QuikTrip Corp. is paying current and former employees in nine states nearly $750,000 in overtime back wages following an investigation by the Labor Department.

The agency found the Tulsa, Okla.-based store failed to pay 3,819 workers the overtime compensation they were supposed to receive.

The employees worked in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Philadelphia Settled Firefighters' Discrimination Suit

by Jeff Shields, Inquirer Staff Writer

The City of Philadelphia this year quietly paid out $275,000 to settle claims by five white firefighters that they had been discriminated against in the promotion process.

Not only did the city pay five lieutenants between $30,000 and $40,000 each in the January settlement of a 2007 federal civil-rights lawsuit, but the Fire Department also agreed to address the officers' complaints that the promotional exams they took in 2005 were skewed against them in favor of minority candidates.

The settlement suggests that the city gave some credibility to the officers' claims - including one that the city purposely brought in minority officers to administer the tests.

The settlement was marked "confidential," but the city released it to The Inquirer under the state Right to Know Act.

The settlement allowed the city to avoid a lengthy litigation and appeals process such as the City of New Haven, Conn., experienced in a 2004 lawsuit by 20 white firefighters who challenged their city's promotion process. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor.

The Philadelphia case underscores a similar, ongoing racial tension in the department in regard to promotions and how the tests are given and scored.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers could not be reached for comment. Everett Gillison, the deputy mayor for public safety, said he was not familiar with details of the lawsuit and would not comment until he had reviewed it.

The Philadelphia lieutenants - Francis J. Hannan, Joseph Lee Jr., Gerard Kots, Michael Wellock, and Thomas G. Leonard - sued the city in September 2007, claiming that they had been "systematically or otherwise downgraded" because of their race during the oral portion of the July 2005 fire captain's examination.

None of the five was promoted at the time - Hannan and Lee made captain in subsequent promotion rounds.

In the suit, the men alleged that the "raters" - fire officers from other cities brought in to administer tests, a practice in most departments - were told before the tests that the department "was 'in dire' need of minority and female fire officers," according to the complaint.

Of the 14 raters brought in for the 2005 captains test, 10 were African American, some of them members of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, which has advanced the cause of blacks in the firehouses nationally, according to the complaint.

The five white lieutenants lost points for such things as lack of "appropriate eye contact," mistakenly addressing a female rater as "Sir," and for "being too wordy," according to the complaint.

While the city denied in the settlement "that it engaged in any discrimination or retaliation in any manner whatsoever," it agreed to:

Develop written procedures for selecting raters that prohibit an expressed preference for minority raters.

Instruct raters not to consider race or gender and not provide the raters with racial or gender demographics of the department.

Develop guidelines for evaluating communication skills that will be shared with promotion candidates.

Refrain from retaliating against any of the plaintiffs.

The city paid Kots and Leonard $30,000 each; Hannan and Lee $35,000 each; and Wellock $40,000. Their attorneys split a total of $105,000.

Dissent over the testing process - particularly the oral section - is a decades-old problem. The city's promotional process is weighted: 45 percent for a written test, 45 percent for an oral test, and 10 percent for seniority.

At one time, African American firefighters complained that the oral test was a way to keep them from promotions.

Blacks now make up 28 percent of the department, whites 66 percent, and Hispanics 6 percent. Six percent are women.

Today, with a 1985 consent decree in place requiring at least 12 percent of new hires to be African American, and with African Americans in top leadership posts including the commissioner, Ayers, it has been white officers who have railed against the process.

"Commissioner Ayers has systematically demonstrated bias against Caucasian fire fighters and fire officers," attorneys Arthur L. Bugay and Gerald Williams wrote in their complaint for the five officers.

Mayor Nutter's spokesman, Doug Oliver, called that comment "absurd . . . harmful, unfair, and undeserved. Anyone who knows Commissioner Ayers knows that he is a consummate professional and that he executes the responsibilities of his office with integrity."

The controversy over the testing process has produced a sometimes-divided department with groups like Club Valiants Inc., an organization of black firefighters that fought for the consent decree, and the local Concerned American Firefighters Association chapter, which supported the white officers known as the "New Haven 20."

Lt. Kenneth W. Greene Sr., Club Valiants president, said his group had no problem with the promotion-testing system or the role of oral exams.

"I don't see how someone can have a problem trying to explain themselves unless they didn't know what they were talking about," he said. Greene called the 26 percent representation of African Americans in the department "sad."

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22, which represents the city's 2,100-plus firefighters, last year asked the city to eliminate the oral portion of the promotional exams.

Bill Gault, who takes over as president of Local 22 today from outgoing president Brian McBride, said yesterday: "There's never going to be people happy with the oral. It's way too subjective."

The city refused to do away with the oral exam, asserting its prerogative to manage the tests as it sees fit.

During arbitration this year, Local 22 proposed that the tests be scored on 50 percent written, 25 percent oral, and 25 percent seniority, said union attorney Rick Poulson.

"We'd like to have some processes in place that allow us to avoid the infighting and find the most qualified candidates to do this important work," Poulson said yesterday. "Every time there's a list that comes out, there's a lawsuit."

The New Haven case, in which that city threw out the results of a 2003 written test when it produced no minority candidates, might cause cities to rely even more on oral exams, said attorney Bugay.

"Cities may try to make examinations entirely oral, and that would be problematic," he said. "Because the written part of the exam is actually the most objective part of the promotional exam process, by definition."

The Supreme Court case may discourage cities "from administering their own ad hoc affirmative-action policies that harm the civil rights of others," Bugay said.

Union lawyer Poulson said New Haven "gives us an excuse to reexamine a promotional process that is broken."


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Court Decision May Change Hiring Practices: White Firefighters Win Supreme Court Case

AP – Frank Ricci, left, lead plaintiff in the the 'New Haven 20' firefighter reverse discrimination case speaks …

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer – Mon Jun 29, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide and make it harder to prove discrimination when there is no evidence it was intentional.

New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

The ruling could give Sotomayor's critics fresh ammunition two weeks before her Senate confirmation hearing. Conservatives say it shows she is a judicial activist who lets her own feelings color her decisions. On the other hand, liberal allies say her stance in the case demonstrates her restraint and unwillingness to go beyond established precedents.

Coincidentally, the court may have given a boost to calls for quick action on her nomination.

The court said it will return Sept. 9 to hear a second round of arguments in a campaign finance case, and with Justice David Souter retiring there would be only eight justices unless Sotomayor has been confirmed by then.

In Monday's ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions." He was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters "understandably attract this court's sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them."

Justices Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens signed onto Ginsburg's dissent, which she read aloud in court Monday. Speaking dismissively of the majority opinion, she predicted the court's ruling "will not have staying power."

Kennedy's opinion made only passing reference to the work of Sotomayor and the other two judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld a lower court ruling in favor of New Haven.

But the appellate judges have been criticized for producing a cursory opinion that failed to deal with "indisputably complex and far from well-settled" questions, in the words of another appeals court judge, Sotomayor mentor Jose Cabranes.

"This perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal," Cabranes said, in a dissent from the full 2nd Circuit's decision not to hear the case.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Sotomayor should not be criticized for the unsigned appeals court decision, which he asserted she did not write. "Judge Sotomayor and the lower court panel did what judges are supposed to do, they followed precedent," said the Vermont Democrat who will preside over Sotomayor's confirmation hearings next month.

Leahy also called the high court decision "cramped" and wrong.

In New Haven, Nancy Ricci, whose son, Frank, was the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, carried a large cake decorated with red, white and blue frosting into the law office where the firefighters were celebrating their victory.

The ruling is "a sign that individual achievement should not take a back seat to race or ethnicity," said Karen Torre, the firefighters' attorney. "I think the import of the decision is that cities cannot bow to politics and pressure and lobbying by special interest groups or act to achieve racial quotas."

At a press conference on the steps of city hall in New Haven, firefighter Frank Ricci said the ruling showed that "if you work hard, you can succeed in America."

Monday's decision has its origins in New Haven's need to fill vacancies for lieutenants and captains in its fire department. It hired an outside firm to design a test, which was given to 77 candidates for lieutenant and 41 candidates for captain.

Fifty-six firefighters passed the exams, including 41 whites, nine blacks and six Hispanics. But of those, only 17 whites and two Hispanics could expect promotion.
The city eventually decided not to use the exam to determine promotions. It said it acted because it might have been vulnerable to claims that the exam had a "disparate impact" on minorities in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The white firefighters said the decision violated the same law's prohibition on intentional discrimination. The lawsuit was filed by 20 white plaintiffs, including one man who is both white and Hispanic.

Kennedy said an employer needs a "strong basis in evidence" to believe it will be held liable in a disparate impact lawsuit. New Haven had no such evidence, he said.
The city declined to validate the test after it was given, a step that could have identified flaws or determined that there were no serious problems with it. In addition, city officials could not say what was wrong with the test, other than the racially skewed results.

"The city could be liable for disparate-impact discrimination only if the examinations were not job related" or the city failed to use a less discriminatory alternative, Kennedy said. "We conclude that there is no strong basis in evidence to establish that the test was deficient in either of these respects."

But Ginsburg said the court should have assessed "the starkly disparate results" of the exams against the backdrop of historical and ongoing inequality in the New Haven fire department. As of 2003, she said, only one of the city's 21 fire captains was African-American.

Until this decision, Ginsburg said, the civil rights law's prohibitions on intentional discrimination and disparate impact were complementary, both aimed at ending workplace discrimination.

"Today's decision sets these paired directives at odds," she said.
___
Associated Press writer Katie Nelson in New Haven, Conn., contributed to this report.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bank of America Sued for Gender Bias Over Bonuses

Thursday 25 June 2009
by: Jonathan Stempel and Elinor Comlay

Retention bonuses to brokers alleged. Plaintiff says white men fare better than women. Bank of America says bonus program was merit-based.

New York - Bank of America Corp was accused in a Manhattan federal lawsuit of discriminating against female brokers at the former Merrill Lynch & Co by offering them lower retention bonuses than male counterparts.

Thursday's lawsuit seeks class-action status, and contends that female brokers were typically eligible for lower bonuses because of gender bias at Merrill, including the brokerage's practice of steering wealthier clients to male brokers.

Because bonuses were based on "production," or fees earned on client assets, the bonus distribution authorized by Bank of America "disproportionately disadvantages women and advantages white men as favored employees," the complaint said.

Retention bonuses are often awarded to brokers who work at companies being acquired to keep them from defecting, and for top producers can reach seven figures.

Bank of America has said it has about 15,800 brokers, most of whom came from Merrill. Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis has called the brokerage business the "crown jewel" of Merrill. The bank bought Merrill on Jan. 1.

"The idea of a retention bonus is to retain the best and the brightest," said Linda Friedman, a partner at Stowell & Friedman Ltd in Chicago representing the plaintiff.

"Bank of America acquired a company that had a history of mistreatment," she went on. "Rather than acknowledge that, and be part of the solution to level the playing field, Bank of America picked up where Merrill Lynch left off."

A bank spokeswoman, Shirley Norton, said Bank of America will vigorously defend against the lawsuit.

"The adviser transition program was merit-based and implemented fairly and equally for men and women," she said. "We do not tolerate discrimination."

The case was brought by Jaime Goodman, who according to the complaint has worked at Merrill since 1992. It said she has been a top-quintile performer and "a $1 million producer for nearly a decade," but would have performed even better and gotten a higher retention bonus absent discrimination.

Goodman is seeking compensatory damages including the value of all compensation and benefits lost because of the alleged bias, as well as punitive damages and other remedies.

Last year, Citigroup Inc agreed to pay $33 million to settle similar charges in a federal lawsuit in San Francisco brought by about 2,500 female brokers at its Smith Barney unit.

Bank of America and Merrill had separately faced other bias lawsuits accusing them of steering business to white workers. Friedman is still pursuing a 2005 federal lawsuit against Merrill in Chicago on behalf of African-American brokers.

The case is Goodman v. Merrill Lynch & Co, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 09-5841.

(Reporting by Elinor Comlay and Jonathan Stempel; editing by Bernard Orr and Gerald E. McCormick.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More workers accuse Lilly of discrimination

By John Russell, June 9, 2009

More than 100 current and former workers of Eli Lilly and Co. have stepped forward to accuse the Indianapolis drug maker of racial discrimination, claiming it denied equal promotional opportunities, training and compensation, according to motion filed this morning in federal court in Indianapolis.

The employees, who are African-American, say they worked at numerous Lilly sites nationwide over the past three decades. Some continue to work at the company, the documents say.

The motion was filed by nine employees and the NAACP's head office, seeking class certification on behalf of "an estimated 2,000 members of the class." That number represents the number of black employees who have worked at Lilly since 2002.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say 108 of the workers have filed declarations about their experiences at Lilly.

A group of plaintiffs, along with lawyers and NAACP officials, planned to rally on the steps of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Downtown Indianapolis at 11 a.m. today.

Lilly is Indianapolis' largest private employer, with about 12,000 workers at its headquarters and laboratories south of Downtown.

Lilly spokesman Mark E. Taylor today said the company has asked the court to deny class certification in this case.

"This case should not proceed as a class action because policies at Lilly ensure that respect and fair treatment of people are the cornerstones of Lilly’s corporate culture," he said in an e-mail. "We do not tolerate discrimination, which would be behavior contrary to our code of ethics. Lilly takes any allegations of unfair treatment very seriously. Lilly has investigated the allegations in the previously filed complaints and believes this lawsuit is without merit. We are prepared to vigorously defend the company."

The move is the latest twist to a lawsuit originally filed by Cassandra Welch, who said she was fired in 2004 in retaliation for complaining to the company's human resources department, accusing several managers of discrimination.

Welch had worked at Lilly for 12 years and said the company's minority-friendly policies were rarely applied. She said she found a black doll with a noose around its neck after raising complaints. Lilly has said it dismissed Welch for falsifying e-mails sent to a co-worker about non-Lilly business.

As of 2007, about 50 plaintiffs had joined the case. They included sales representatives, production workers, office workers and professionals from Lilly locations that include Indianapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, Memphis, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C.

With today's filing, the number of employees stepping forward grows dramatically.

“As these individual and collective employment experiences make clear, for several decades Lilly has intentionally engaged in discriminatory practices with indifference to the federally protected rights of its African American employees,” said Ms. Ciccolo, General Counsel of the NAACP, in a statement. “This company’s longstanding policies and patterns of discrimination have injured and damaged these nine class representatives and all of the other African-Americans it employs. The legal actions we are taking in Indianapolis federal court are required to bring that injury and damage to a prompt and permanent end.”

The plaintiffs seek undisclosed damages, including declaratory and injunctive relief, back pay, front pay, and attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

Watch IndyStar.com for updates on this story.

Contact Star reporter John Russell at (317) 444-6283.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

EEOC Sides With Mississippi Black Troopers

BY NATALIE CHANDLER • NATALIE.CHANDLER@CLARIONLEDGER.COM

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found legitimacy in allegations the state Department of Public Safety has discriminated against black troopers.

The EEOC issued a determination today finding that the DPS has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The department "discriminated against blacks as a class because of their race within respect to assignments, demotions, discharges, discipline, harassment, hiring, intimidation, hostile work environment, promotions, and the overall terms and conditions of their employment," according to the determination.

DPS said much of the alleged discrimination occurred long before Steve Simpson became commissioner last year.

In a timeline released to the news media, DPS spokesman Jon Kalahar notes that Simpson took steps to investigate and address issues raised in an anonymous letter to Gov. Haley Barbour in October — months before the EEOC complaint was filed on Jan. 6. Simpson became commissioner on May 1, 2008.

Simpson appointed a special committee of former Supreme Court Justices Reuben Anderson and Jim Roberts and College Board member and lawyer Amy Whitten to hear black troopers’ complaints. But none of the troopers would come forward.

There are more than 607 state troopers in Mississippi of which 208 are black.

"Discrimination in any form should not be tolerated, especially in state government," Derrick Johnson, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement.

The EEOC will begin "conciliation efforts" between the department and the black troopers to resolve the situation.

It has drafted an agreement that includes a notice to employees stating the department will comply with federal laws and, among other things, "will not discriminate against any employee on the basis of race" or in retaliation.

The department has to respond to the invitation within 14 days.

Simpson said DPS takes the EEOC report seriously but views its findings as vague and lacking in specifics. "DPS will continue reviewing any potential merits of the allegations and any action, if necessary, that need to be taken," he said in his statement.

To comment on this story, call Natalie Chandler at (601) 961-7075 or Marquita Brown at (601) 961-7059.

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$1.5M to Black Miss. Troopers Said Unlikely


BY NATALIE CHANDLER

Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson said today that his agency isn’t likely to agree to a suggested $1.5 million settlement to resolve allegations of racial discrimination without more specifics from the federal government.

Simpson said he plans to contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week and request a meeting over a report the commission issued last week. The EEOC issued a determination that found substance to allegations DPS has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Simpson, who took over DPS about 13 months ago, said he’s "fairly certain" that as it stands today, the agency won't agree to a drafted agreement that includes a recommendation the state pay $1.5 million in damages, back wages and legal fees to troopers who have alleged racial slurs and being passed over for promotions.

DPS "discriminated against blacks as a class because of their race within respect to assignments, demotions, discharges, discipline, harassment, hiring, intimidation, hostile work environment, promotions, and the overall terms and conditions of their employment," according to EEOC findings.

DPS has 14 days to respond to the recommendations. But Simpson said, "It's got to be a bigger, longer procedure than that .. to identify that class, and first, to verify that they were indeed discriminated against and then to identify what remedies, if any, are justified."

"That can't be accomplished in the next 10 days," he said at a meeting of The Clarion-Ledger editorial board.

The Mississippi Central State Troopers Coalition, a group of black troopers, has called for the removal of Col. Michael Berthay, the demotion of nearly a dozen other high-ranking DPS officials and 21 other suggested changes.

But Simpson said, "I think it's a larger question than getting rid of one person. I think the real question they have raised .. is whether or not this merit promotion system can be abused and manipulated."

Simpson said he is studying a system used in Alabama whereby troopers from other states administer tests and conduct interviews for promotions.

To comment on this story, call Natalie Chandler at (601) 961-7075.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama to propose $1.25B for black farmers

By BEN EVANS – May 6, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is proposing that the government provide $1.25 billion to settle discrimination claims by black farmers against the Agriculture Department.

The White House said the money would be included in the president's 2010 budget request to be unveiled Thursday.

Obama had taken criticism earlier this year from black farmers and lawmakers who said the federal government was neglecting the need for more money to fund claims under a decade-old class-action lawsuit against the government.

In a statement, Obama said the proposed settlement funds would "close this chapter" in the agency's history and allow it to move on.

"My hope is that the farmers and their families who were denied access to USDA loans and programs will be made whole and will have the chance to rebuild their lives and their businesses," he said.

John Boyd, who has spearheaded the litigation as head of the National Black Farmers Association and has been particularly critical of Obama recently, called the proposal a "step in the right direction."

But he said more money would be needed.

"We think this is a good step in the negotiating process. We're glad to know this issue is on the president's radar screen and we commend him for taking this step," he said. But "we need to make sure that none of the black farmers are left out."

At issue is the class-action Pigford lawsuit, named after Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina who was among the original plaintiffs. Thousands of farmers sued USDA claiming they had for years been denied government loans and other assistance that routinely went to whites. The government settled in 1999 and has paid out nearly $1 billion in damages on almost 16,000 claims.

Since then, other farmers have pushed to reopen the case because they missed deadlines for filing. Many said they didn't know that damages were available.

Last year, Congress passed a proposal sponsored by then-Sen. Obama and others to give more farmers a chance at a settlement. But the measure included a budget of only $100 million — far short of what is likely needed. With an estimated 65,000 additional claims, some estimate the case could cost the government another $2 billion or $3 billion.

While Obama's proposal represents a marked shift from the Bush administration, which had fought paying new claims, it was unclear how the plan might be received on Capitol Hill. Many lawmakers think the payments should not be capped and that the government should pay however much it costs to resolve successful claims.

Earlier this week, Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., introduced legislation that would allow access to an unlimited judgment fund at the Department of Treasury to pay successful claims

"I don't know other fields of litigation where there's a limit on the payments," Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said Wednesday, speaking before the White House announced the proposal.

Most claimants in the original case opted to seek expedited payments that required a relatively low burden of proof. The payments were $50,000 plus $12,500 in tax breaks.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

-------------------------------

Black Caucus Questions Obama About Farmers

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is not happy about President Barack Obama's recent move potentially to stem billions of dollars owed to Black farmers.

President Barack Obama The Caucus recently requested an audience with the president's officials after learning of a Justice Department filing by Obama's administration that would prevent farmers who suffered discrimination from collecting up to $4 billion. The court action would top possible compensation at $100 million because it contradicts legislation Obama pushed while he was a senator.

“At a minimum, the CBC should meet with the Obama administration and clarify this filing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

The Black workers in question won a historic agreement with the federal government in 1999 after their applications for loans and credit had been rejected by the United States Department of Agriculture. At stake are billions of dollars in compensation owed to Black farmers whose applications for loans and credit were denied by USDA officials. Those discriminated against won a historic agreement with the federal government in 1999, known as the Pigford settlement, wherein authorities agreed to compensate Black farmers for USDA’s past prejudices.

But Obama and other lawmakers came to the aid of some who missed the filing deadline to receive compensation. The lawmakers were successful in adding a $100 million fund to the bill that would compensate the denied land-workers. Called the Pigford settlement, the Caucus supported the effort.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bill boosts pending farmer discrimination claims

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press Writer, May 5, 2009

WASHINGTON - African American farmers with pending discrimination claims against the Department of Agriculture could collect higher settlements if a new bill becomes law.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican, and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, introduced legislation Tuesday that would allow access to an unlimited judgment fund at the Department of Treasury to pay successful claims. Law enacted last year would provide only $100 million for the farmers, though the claims could cost up to $3 billion.

The government settled a class action lawsuit filed by black farmers in 1999 and has paid out nearly $1 billion in damages. Thousands of farmers from around the country said they were denied government loans and other assistance that went to white farmers.

-------------------------

Black Caucus Questions Obama About Farmers

By BET.com

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is not happy about President Barack Obama's recent move potentially to stem billions of dollars owed to Black farmers.

President Barack Obama The Caucus recently requested an audience with the president's officials after learning of a Justice Department filing by Obama's administration that would prevent farmers who suffered discrimination from collecting up to $4 billion. The court action would top possible compensation at $100 million because it contradicts legislation Obama pushed while he was a senator.

“At a minimum, the CBC should meet with the Obama administration and clarify this filing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

The Black workers in question won a historic agreement with the federal government in 1999 after their applications for loans and credit had been rejected by the United States Department of Agriculture. At stake are billions of dollars in compensation owed to Black farmers whose applications for loans and credit were denied by USDA officials. Those discriminated against won a historic agreement with the federal government in 1999, known as the Pigford settlement, wherein authorities agreed to compensate Black farmers for USDA’s past prejudices.

But Obama and other lawmakers came to the aid of some who missed the filing deadline to receive compensation. The lawmakers were successful in adding a $100 million fund to the bill that would compensate the denied land-workers. Called the Pigford settlement, the Caucus supported the effort.

------------------------

CBC upset over Obama’s stance on black farmers

By Kevin Bogardus

Posted: 04/23/09

Black lawmakers are roiled over the Obama administration’s move to potentially cap billions of dollars in compensation owed to black farmers, saying the position contradicts legislation the president championed as an Illinois senator.

In a meeting Wednesday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) vented frustration at recent court filings by the Justice Department that could severely limit compensation owed to black farmers discriminated against in the past by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Justice Department has estimated that it could cost as much as $4 billion to repay the farmers, yet the recent filings suggest it may cap the total compensation at $100 million — about 2.5 percent.

The black lawmakers decided to request a meeting between administration officials and caucus representatives as soon as possible to discuss the filings.

“At a minimum, the CBC should meet with the Obama administration and clarify this filing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

“What will happen — should happen — is the Justice Department, the [Agriculture] Department should sit down with representatives of the CBC,” said Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.).

At stake are billions of dollars in compensation owed to black farmers whose applications for loans and credit were denied by USDA officials. Those discriminated against won a historic agreement with the federal government in 1999, known as the Pigford settlement, wherein authorities agreed to compensate black farmers for USDA’s past prejudices.

But thousands of farmers missed the filing deadline to apply for compensation. Since then, black lawmakers have sought to reopen the lawsuit and allow those farmers who missed the deadline to re-file claims for compensation.

They triumphed last year when they added a $100 million fund to the Farm Bill that would begin to pay back late filers to the Pigford settlement. On Capitol Hill, Obama and others, including Thompson and Davis, fought for the fund to be included in the legislation, which was key in securing CBC support for the Farm Bill.

Lawmakers intended the fund to be a down payment on compensation for black farmers and planned to add more money to the fund when needed. Estimates have 65,000 black farmers planning to file late claims for compensation under Pigford, which would result in at least $50,000 in payments and $12,500 in tax breaks for each filer. A February filing by the Justice Department estimates about $4 billion would be needed to pay back all the farmers.

“It is not a cap in the real sense,” Davis said. “It was intended as a starting point.”

“At no point was that $100 million intended to be a cap,” Thompson said. “It was a beginning.”

But in recent court filings, the Justice Department has said it cannot disburse more than $100 million to farmers who were discriminated against.

Until Congress eliminates the funding cap, the administration cannot pay out any more, argued Justice lawyers. The fact that the Pigford language in the Farm Bill allows Congress to authorize more money if necessary does not change Justice’s analysis.

That could leave black farmers who were discriminated against with much less compensation than expected, about $1,500 in payments. CBC members believe Obama should stick to his bill, which he introduced as standalone legislation in August 2007 before adding it to the Farm Bill in the Senate.

“He should remain consistent with his legislation,” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “With the background of this president and his legal knowledge, I’m sure they will take another look at this.”

Supporters of Obama’s presidential campaign argued the then-Illinois senator’s move to resolve late Pigford claims would endear him to Southern black voters during the tough Democratic primary race against former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). At the time of the bill’s introduction in 2007, Obama was finding his footing as a candidate and polls suggested he was struggling to attract black voters. He later won almost unanimously among this group against Clinton and then in the general election against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Now Obama may have to face off with several of his own campaign supporters over how best to compensate discrimination claims by black farmers. Clay, Davis and Thompson endorsed Obama during the presidential primaries.

“The president has been a leader on this issue since his days as a U.S. senator and is deeply committed to closing this painful chapter in our history,” said Kenneth Baer, communications director for the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement.

In addition, John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), is hosting a rally on the National Mall next Tuesday to protest the Justice Department’s court filings.

“We were hoping this measure was going to be a priority for this administration,” Boyd said. “He made those commitments on the campaign trail. We hope the president would take a look at this and help us find a solution to this problem.”

On the NBFA’s website, Boyd is pictured shaking hands with Obama. Having briefed the then-senator about the issue as early as 2005, the trade association president lobbied him to introduce the bill and was rumored to be a potential Agriculture secretary for the administration.

But now he is on Capitol Hill this week lobbying Congress, “trying to shake loose some funds from lawmakers to help the black farmers,” Boyd said.

The NBFA could expect to find backing from black lawmakers, some of whom planned to request more funds to compensate the discrimination claims during the appropriations process this summer.

“It is something that needs to be done. We should have the support of some members,” Davis said.

The Obama administration has begun to reach out to black lawmakers to soothe concerns over the court filings.

“We have been in touch with the administration and they are trying to right the ship as soon as possible,” said an aide to a key CBC member.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has made correcting the civil-rights wrongs by USDA a priority. In a memo sent to USDA employees Tuesday, Vilsack said the department would work with Justice to resolve late Pigford claims “fairly and expeditiously.”

“We agree more needs to be done not only on this particular issue but on civil rights in general. We are working internally at USDA as well as with the Department of Justice to ensure that people are treated fairly,” Vilsack said in a statement.

--------------------------

USDA to review racism complaints

Wed Apr 22, 2009

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday vowed to improve civil rights at the U.S. Agriculture Department, which has been hit by more than 14,000 complaints about racial discrimination since 2000.

The USDA, which has a long history of civil rights complaints from some farmers denied access to USDA benefits, has yet to review about 3,000 of them, said Vilsack, who acknowledged "questions continue to be raised about USDA's handling of complaints.

"There have been unresolved claims. There have been a backlog of claims. I want to close the book on all of those claims," Vilsack told the North American Agricultural Journalists.

"I want to make sure that we do everything we possibly can in the future not to have this magnitude of problems we've had for the last 20 years. It's time to get it past us," he said.

Vilsack said he will be creating a task force to review civil rights complaints lodged since 2000.

The department also is suspending all foreclosures within USDA's Farm Service Agency's farm loan program for 90 days to help financially strapped farmers and to review loans for possible discrimination.

A landmark multimillion-dollar settlement was reached in 1999 after black farmers said USDA unfairly denied their applications for USDA loan and benefit programs and failed to investigate complaints of bias. USDA so far has paid out about $1 billion to compensate black farmers.

(Reporting by Christopher Doering and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Black Contractors File Bias Suit Against Toyota

Los Angeles Sentinel, News Report, Denise Stewart, Posted: Apr 27, 2009

Fish & Fisher, a black-owned general contractor in Jackson, Mississippi, hauled more than 1 million cubic tons of dirt to make way for a new Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., and also helped expand the Jackson-Evers International Airport.

But when it came time to hand out the big contracts for construction of a new Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi in 2007, Fish & Fisher says it was left out of the process.

Fish & Fisher has filed a federal lawsuit in Mississippi, claiming racial discrimination in the bid process for the Toyota plant. The company is seeking unspecified damages in the suit that also names as defendants Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority.

The company got a $6 million chunk of the site preparation work as a subcontractor while the general contractor for the job, L&T Construction, got a total of $49 million. That company originally partnered with another contractor to win the bid, but that partnership later dissolved, according to the court filing.

Owners of Fish & Fisher say minority-owned companies were excluded from the process.

“If we had had an opportunity, we absolutely would have bid on the project, but we weren’t given that opportunity,” Fish & Fisher co-owner Jacqueline Williams told BlackAmericaweb.com. “They invited only five companies to bid. At a time when the state gave $300 million in incentives to bring the plant to Mississippi, they still only allowed certain insiders to bid.”

Toyota calls the claims in the lawsuit “baseless” and said it will “vigorously defend this case.”

Company spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel told BlackAmericaweb.com that the pool of bidders on the job was limited because of the size and scope of the project.

To bid as general contractor, a company must have annual sales four times above the value of the Toyota project, McDaniel said.

Williams said Fish & Fisher met the requirements for minority company participation with Toyota because it is certified by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Byron Perkins, a Birmingham, Alabama lawyer representing Fish & Fisher, said the exclusion of that company from the bid process is something that happens all too often to black-owned businesses.

“This practice is still rampant, and it’s time for it to stop,” Perkins told BlackAmericaweb.com.

Toyota defends its record with minority business.

"To date, more than $40 million has been spent with minority contractors for the Toyota Mississippi project, which actually exceeds our goal of 15 percent spending with minority contractors,” McDaniel said. “Toyota’s track record nationally, as well as in Mississippi for awarding business to MBEs (minority business enterprises), speaks for itself.”

McDaniel said Toyota is one of only 14 companies in the United States to be a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, a designation given to companies who spend at least $1 billion annually with diverse suppliers and demonstrate a strong overall commitment to supplier diversity.

Since the project was announced, the Toyota plant in Blue Springs, near Tupelo in northeast Mississippi, was anticipated as a boost for the state’s sagging economy.

Industry reports say the plant was originally projected to hire 2,000 people to make 150,000 Toyota Highlander SUVs annually. The total cost of the project was expected to top $1 billion.

Last year, plans for the plant changed, and the company decided to produce the Prius at the new Mississippi plant. The slow economy has since placed those plans on hold, company officials say.
The main building for the plant has been completed, but it has not been equipped for production, McDaniel said. About 100 people currently work there in administrative offices, she said.

Williams, who co-owns Fish & Fisher partner Renna Fisher, said minority-owned companies continue to get only small portions of contracts and are prevented by an age-old system from being named general contractors on major projects in Mississippi.

The lawsuit claims there was a conspiracy to exclude minority-owned companies by having a private bidding process, depriving Fish & Fisher of their constitutional right to equal access.

Perkins, the lawyer, said they also believe Toyota erred by allowing Hernando-based L&T to keep the contract after a partnership it formed with another white-owned business dissolved shortly after the companies won the contract. The suit claims L&T didn't meet the guidelines set out for the project by Toyota and that the company was not bonded.

Perkins said argues Fish & Fisher would have had no such problems.

"This isn't a fly-by-night company," he said.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

USDA to review racism complaints

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday vowed to improve civil rights at the U.S. Agriculture Department, which has been hit by more than 14,000 complaints about racial discrimination since 2000.

The USDA, which has a long history of civil rights complaints from some farmers denied access to USDA benefits, has yet to review about 3,000 of them, said Vilsack, who acknowledged "questions continue to be raised about USDA's handling of complaints.

"There have been unresolved claims. There have been a backlog of claims. I want to close the book on all of those claims," Vilsack told the North American Agricultural Journalists.

"I want to make sure that we do everything we possibly can in the future not to have this magnitude of problems we've had for the last 20 years. It's time to get it past us," he said.

Vilsack said he will be creating a task force to review civil rights complaints lodged since 2000.

The department also is suspending all foreclosures within USDA's Farm Service Agency's farm loan program for 90 days to help financially strapped farmers and to review loans for possible discrimination.

A landmark multimillion-dollar settlement was reached in 1999 after black farmers said USDA unfairly denied their applications for USDA loan and benefit programs and failed to investigate complaints of bias. USDA so far has paid out about $1 billion to compensate black farmers.

(Reporting by Christopher Doering and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

--------------------------------

CBC upset over Obama’s stance on black farmers

By Kevin Bogardus, Posted: 04/23/09

Black lawmakers are roiled over the Obama administration’s move to potentially cap billions of dollars in compensation owed to black farmers, saying the position contradicts legislation the president championed as an Illinois senator.

In a meeting Wednesday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) vented frustration at recent court filings by the Justice Department that could severely limit compensation owed to black farmers discriminated against in the past by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Justice Department has estimated that it could cost as much as $4 billion to repay the farmers, yet the recent filings suggest it may cap the total compensation at $100 million — about 2.5 percent.

The black lawmakers decided to request a meeting between administration officials and caucus representatives as soon as possible to discuss the filings.

“At a minimum, the CBC should meet with the Obama administration and clarify this filing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

“What will happen — should happen — is the Justice Department, the [Agriculture] Department should sit down with representatives of the CBC,” said Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.).

At stake are billions of dollars in compensation owed to black farmers whose applications for loans and credit were denied by USDA officials. Those discriminated against won a historic agreement with the federal government in 1999, known as the Pigford settlement, wherein authorities agreed to compensate black farmers for USDA’s past prejudices.

But thousands of farmers missed the filing deadline to apply for compensation. Since then, black lawmakers have sought to reopen the lawsuit and allow those farmers who missed the deadline to re-file claims for compensation.

They triumphed last year when they added a $100 million fund to the Farm Bill that would begin to pay back late filers to the Pigford settlement. On Capitol Hill, Obama and others, including Thompson and Davis, fought for the fund to be included in the legislation, which was key in securing CBC support for the Farm Bill.

Lawmakers intended the fund to be a down payment on compensation for black farmers and planned to add more money to the fund when needed. Estimates have 65,000 black farmers planning to file late claims for compensation under Pigford, which would result in at least $50,000 in payments and $12,500 in tax breaks for each filer. A February filing by the Justice Department estimates about $4 billion would be needed to pay back all the farmers.

“It is not a cap in the real sense,” Davis said. “It was intended as a starting point.”

“At no point was that $100 million intended to be a cap,” Thompson said. “It was a beginning.”

But in recent court filings, the Justice Department has said it cannot disburse more than $100 million to farmers who were discriminated against.

Until Congress eliminates the funding cap, the administration cannot pay out any more, argued Justice lawyers. The fact that the Pigford language in the Farm Bill allows Congress to authorize more money if necessary does not change Justice’s analysis.

That could leave black farmers who were discriminated against with much less compensation than expected, about $1,500 in payments. CBC members believe Obama should stick to his bill, which he introduced as standalone legislation in August 2007 before adding it to the Farm Bill in the Senate.

“He should remain consistent with his legislation,” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “With the background of this president and his legal knowledge, I’m sure they will take another look at this.”

Supporters of Obama’s presidential campaign argued the then-Illinois senator’s move to resolve late Pigford claims would endear him to Southern black voters during the tough Democratic primary race against former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). At the time of the bill’s introduction in 2007, Obama was finding his footing as a candidate and polls suggested he was struggling to attract black voters. He later won almost unanimously among this group against Clinton and then in the general election against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Now Obama may have to face off with several of his own campaign supporters over how best to compensate discrimination claims by black farmers. Clay, Davis and Thompson endorsed Obama during the presidential primaries.

“The president has been a leader on this issue since his days as a U.S. senator and is deeply committed to closing this painful chapter in our history,” said Kenneth Baer, communications director for the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement.

In addition, John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), is hosting a rally on the National Mall next Tuesday to protest the Justice Department’s court filings.

“We were hoping this measure was going to be a priority for this administration,” Boyd said. “He made those commitments on the campaign trail. We hope the president would take a look at this and help us find a solution to this problem.”

On the NBFA’s website, Boyd is pictured shaking hands with Obama. Having briefed the then-senator about the issue as early as 2005, the trade association president lobbied him to introduce the bill and was rumored to be a potential Agriculture secretary for the administration.

But now he is on Capitol Hill this week lobbying Congress, “trying to shake loose some funds from lawmakers to help the black farmers,” Boyd said.

The NBFA could expect to find backing from black lawmakers, some of whom planned to request more funds to compensate the discrimination claims during the appropriations process this summer.

“It is something that needs to be done. We should have the support of some members,” Davis said.

The Obama administration has begun to reach out to black lawmakers to soothe concerns over the court filings.

“We have been in touch with the administration and they are trying to right the ship as soon as possible,” said an aide to a key CBC member.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has made correcting the civil-rights wrongs by USDA a priority. In a memo sent to USDA employees Tuesday, Vilsack said the department would work with Justice to resolve late Pigford claims “fairly and expeditiously.”

“We agree more needs to be done not only on this particular issue but on civil rights in general. We are working internally at USDA as well as with the Department of Justice to ensure that people are treated fairly,” Vilsack said in a statement.