Panera franchisee settles Pa. suit by black worker

Sep 18, 2012, 12:17 PM

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) – An Ohio franchisee who runs several western Pennsylvania Panera Bread stores has agreed to pay more than $76,000 to settle discrimination claims by current and former black employees.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster on Monday told attorneys for Guy Vines, the black worker, and the company he sued in January, Warren, Ohio-based Covelli Enterprises, to advertise the settlement in newspapers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia, where Covelli operates Panera stores.

Vines sued claiming he was denied promotions and made to work in the kitchen because company owner Sam Covelli didn’t want black employees in areas where the public was served. About 200 to 300 black workers may be entitled to money, Vines’ attorney, Samuel Cordes told the judge.

According to online court records, Vines will receive $10,000 for being the lead plaintiff and Cordes will receive $66,000 in legal fees. In addition, Covelli must pay a yet-to-be determined amount based on how many current and former employees respond to the advertisements and file claims.

Those workers will get 70 cents an hour for each hour they worked in excess of one year at any of Covelli’s Panera’s stores. That’s based upon how much money Covelli’s workers stood to gain had they been promoted after their first year.

The settlement covers all current or former black employees who worked for Covelli for at least a year between Jan. 11, 2008 and Jan. 11, 2012 _ the day Vines filed his lawsuit. Vines contends he was hired in November 2009 and quit in August 2011 over his alleged mistreatment.

Cordes and Covelli’s attorney, Brad Funari, declined to comment after the hearing.

Covelli continues to deny wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

“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, and Covelli has pledged not to discriminate in the future.

The litigation against Covelli didn’t begin with Vines’ lawsuit, but rather with one filed by a white man, Scott Donatelli, who was fired as manager of Covelli’s store in the upscale Pittsburgh suburb of Mount Lebanon in September 2011. The company claimed in court papers that Donatelli violated policies pertaining to medical leave, though Donatelli’s lawsuit alleged he was fired for refusing to stop giving cash register duties to Vines, who was not identified by name in Donatelli’s suit.

Donatelli claimed a district manager reprimanded him and said Covelli would “(expletive) if he got a look at `that'” _ referring to Vines working anywhere customers could see him.

Vines was identified as the employee in question when he sued in January, prompting Covelli to release a statement which called both lawsuits “completely unfounded” and “a coordinated attempt by two disgruntled former employees to discredit the company for a profit motive.”

Cordes, who represented both men, said in Vines’ lawsuit that “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.”

Donatelli’s lawsuit settled earlier this year. The terms weren’t disclosed.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the g...
Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing Memphis officers beating a Black man was made public Friday after they were charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols.
1 day ago
Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's plan to ...
Kevin Stone

Lawsuits keeping over 300,000 Arizonans from getting student loan relief

Lawsuits are preventing more than 300,000 Arizonans from having some or all of their student debt dismissed, the Biden administration said Friday.
1 day ago
FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
2 days ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
2 days ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
2 days ago
FILE - An employee works in the battery assembly hall at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., ...
Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession. Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Panera franchisee settles Pa. suit by black worker