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.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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