A federal judge in Pittsburgh recently gave preliminary
approval to a class action lawsuit on behalf of up to 300 former employees of
Panera Bread franchisee Covelli Enterprises. The suit alleged a systematic
policy of racial discrimination designed to relegate black employees to “back
of the kitchen work” and to deny them promotions.
The settlement gives anyone who worked for Covelli’s Panera
stores between 2008 and 2012 the opportunity to get money for lost promotions in
the amount of 70 cents per hour beyond the first year worked. Before the
settlement is authorized it needs to be published to allow members of the
affected class to opt in or out.
Covelli had just recently settled another
discrimination case stemming from its firing of a regional manager after he
refused to follow the company’s discriminatory policy. In that instance the
policy in question was to refuse to hire anyone “fat, black, or ugly”. Covelli has consistently denied
discrimination saying that the settlements are a cost saving measure. Panera
Bread has responded by holding a number of job fairs in the Pittsburgh area
aimed at recruiting African-Americans. Although the earlier settlement included
a court-ordered non-discrimination policy, it appears Covelli seemed to take it
as a suggestion rather than an order.