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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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