U.S. District Judge Quarles in Baltimore granted a motion to certify a class of African American workers at a large industrial laundry (Up-To-Date Laundry). The Judge certified the plaintiffs’ proposed class for liability purposes under Rule 23(b)(2), although he indicated that (b)(3) was also appropriate; required notice and a right to opt out; and conditionally certified the class for remedial purposes under (b)(3). He also denied the company's motion for partial summary judgment on the class representatives' individual claims. Five black former Up-To-Date employees sued the company in 2001, charging widespread racial discrimination. In approving the workers' request that the case be treated as a class action, Judge Quarles cited "direct evidence of a work environment permeated with vile racial slurs and bigotry." He also found that the "statistical and anecdotal evidence provides a sufficient basis . . . to conclude that [Up-To-Date] engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination with respect to wages, hours, and work assignments, and created a workplace landscape permeated with racial hostility." In particular, Judge Quarles found that Up-To-Date's CEO Nancy Stair "has made racist remarks to employees," and her two sons, Brad and David Minetree, "have openly used 'Nigger' and other racial slurs to refer to African American employees." This is a solid certification decision, and we were aided by evidence showing incredibly raw racism. In a twist, the black workers were treated less favorably than their Latino counterparts, there being few white employees at the plant. Judge Quarles' January 23 decision is posted on the website www.hellerhuron.com, and it is anticipated that the Court will also post the decision. Up-To-Date's customers include the Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University hospitals and the University of Maryland Medical Center. It employs several hundred workers at its plant in Baltimore. No trial date has been set. Attorneys from Heller Huron represent the class.

Newsletter Volume: 
Newsletter - January 2004