Panera loses suit, must pay

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U.S. District Court Justice Gary Lancaster has approved a tentative settlement in a class action discrimination lawsuit brought by former em­ployees of ­Panera Bread franchise owner Sam Corvelli.

Panera

Under the settlement lead plaintiff and former Corvelli employee Guy Vines of Castle Shannon would receive $10,000. The court cannot give final approval until approximately 300-400 current and former employees are made aware of the settlement.

Vines claimed company policy was to keep Blacks “in the back” of restaurants and deny them promotions.

Under the settlement, anyone who worked for Covelli’s Panera stores from Jan. 11, 2008 through Jan. 11, 2012, for more than a year and wanted a promotion, can get payment for alleged lost opportunities. For each hour worked after their first year, they can get 70 cents — about what they would have gotten if promoted.

“We’ll be publishing ads in papers—including the Courier— where Corvelli had Panera Franchises; Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Florida,” said attorney Sam Cordes. “They have to be given a chance to review the settlement and either agree or opt out.”

Cordes said there would be a status meeting on Nov. 20, and then a hearing to finalized the settlement Dec. 14.

The tentative settlement follows another Corvelli settlement Cordes arranged in the spring involving the firing of Mt. Lebanon Panera General Manager Scott Donatelli. He said he was fired for not following the discriminatory policy outlined in Vine’s lawsuit.

Cordes told the Courier in November, “There will be evidence presented that store managers were told, ‘we don’t hire anyone who’s fat, Black or ugly. The evidence we have is that this was standard policy and practice throughout the Corvelli empire.”

Corvelli Enterprises, based in Warren Ohio, owns about 200 has consistently denied allegations of discrimination, saying the settlements avoid further costs and distractions. Recently, Panera has held a number of job fairs in the Pittsburgh area aimed at recruiting and hiring African-Americans.

Cordes said the Vines settlement also contains a specific non-discrimination order.

“Well, yes that is already the law, but this has the added effect of a court order,” he said. “So if there were future violations, it could bring contempt charges as well. Judges usually don’t like being ignored.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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