Panera Bread franchisee settles discrimination lawsuit

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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, an estimated 200 to 300 African-Americans 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 case was filed by Guy Vines, of Castle Shannon, who claimed 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 settlement is fair and reasonable.

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