Panera franchisee Covelli settles lawsuit claiming race discrimination

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A federal judge late Friday approved the settlement of a class-action lawsuit in which Covelli Enterprises, a major Panera Bread franchisee, was accused of denying promotions to black employees.

Under the settlement, any African American who worked for Covelli's Panera stores for longer than a year and wanted a promotion between Jan. 11, 2008, and Jan. 11, 2012, 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.

The settlement is driven by the claim of Guy Vines, of Castle Shannon, that the company kept black employees on kitchen duty rather than moving them to cashier jobs and denied them promotions.

Mr. Vines is to get an additional $10,000 and plaintiffs' attorney Sam Cordes $66,000 under the settlement.

Covelli, based in Warren, Ohio, has said it did not discriminate, and is settling to avoid costs and distractions.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster found in his 20-page opinion that the proposed settlement with some 200 to 300 current or former employees of Covelli is "fair, within the range of reasonableness, and is not obviously deficient in any way."

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord


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