Covelli Enterprises reaches settlement

Staff/wire reports


Covelli Enterprises could face class-action complaints involving 200 to 300 black employees based on a decision made Monday by a federal judge in Pittsburgh.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster ruled that attorneys involved in the lawsuit for Guy Vines, a black worker who sued Covelli in January for discrimination, could advertise a class-action settlement.

Vines sued in January 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.

As part of the original suit, Covelli settled with Vines for $76,000. The company denied any wrongdoing in the settlement agreement but states in court records it has settled to avoid the costs of litigating the case and the uncertainty of any potential outcome should the case go to trial.

Black former and current Covelli employees can join the class-action suit if they worked at the company between Jan. 11, 2008, and Jan. 11, 2012, worked with the company for at least 12 months and applied or desired to be promoted to a management position and were denied, according to federal court documents.

The court documents also state that any eligible employee who wants to opt out of the class or object to the settlement must mail a letter to the federal claims administrator that states the reason for the objection.

Those who become part of the class-action suit would receive 70 cents per hour for each hour worked after the settlement class members’ one-year anniversary with the company until the date of the final court-approved settlement, which was Monday, according to the settlement agreement.

An employee who worked 40 hours a week for an entire year during the terms of the settlement agreement, for example, would be eligible for $1,456 in compensation.

Notice of the settlement will be published in newspapers in Pittsburgh, Cleveland; Columbus; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Charleston, W.Va. Members of the settlement class still employed by Covelli will receive notice by mail.

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