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Franchise Owner of Panera Stores Settles Lawsuit
A discrimination claim filed by current and former black employees at Pennsylvania Panera Bread stores will be settled by the Ohio franchisee who runs the stores. The franchisee has agreed to pay $76,000 to settle the claim. The judge working the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster, told the attorneys for the plaintiff, Guy Vines, to publish the settlement in newspapers in various states. Those states include Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. The defendant sued in the case was Covelli Enterprises, according to the Associated Press.
Vines sued the company because he claimed he was not promoted and was forced to work in the kitchen because owner Sam Covelli did not want black employees working in areas of the restaurants where the public is served. In Covelli’s stores, anywhere from 200 to 300 black workers could be rewarded compensation from the suit.
Vines will be rewarded $10,000 because he was the lead plaintiff. Covelli will need to pay an amount still to be determined to former and current employees based on how many respond to the advertisements in the newspaper and how many file claims. The workers who respond will be rewarded 70 cents per hour for each hour they worked in excess of one year at any of the Covelli-owned stores.
The settlement will be for former and current black workers who worked for Covelli’s stores for a period of at least one year from January 11, 2008 to January 11, 2012. Vines claims he was hired in November of 2009 and that he quit in August of 2011.
“Covelli maintains that is it an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate, nor has it ever discriminated, in its employment decisions,” the settlement said.
The first lawsuit filed against Covelli came not from Vines but instead from a white man named Scott Donatelli. Donatelli was fired from the Mount Lebanon store while working as the manager. Court papers said that Donatelli violated medical leave policies. Donatelli claimed that he was fired for letting Vines work the cash register. Donatelli said he was reprimanded by a district manager who said that Covelli would “(expletive) if he got a look at ‘that.’” The comment referred to Vines working in the view of customers.
Covelli claimed that the lawsuits from Donatelli and Vines were “completely unfounded and a coordinated attempt by two disgruntled former employees to discredit the company for a profit motive.”
Samuel Cordes, the attorney who represented Donatelli and Vines, said, “African Americans were routinely assigned to jobs either in the back of the store washing dishes or doing food preparation so customers would not see them” and that top Covelli managers dictated that “people who are ‘Black, Fat, and/or ugly’ should never be permitted to work the cash registers.”Franchise Owner of Panera Stores Settles Lawsuit by Jim Vassallo