University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Thomas v. Baker EE-DC-0037
Docket / Court 86-2850 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection Private Employment Class Actions
Case Summary
On October 17, 1986 two African-American Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000 et seq. against then Secretary of the Department of State, James Baker, in United States District Court in the District of Columbia. ... read more >
On October 17, 1986 two African-American Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000 et seq. against then Secretary of the Department of State, James Baker, in United States District Court in the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for injunctive relief and damages, alleging that the State Department discriminated against African-Americans who served as FSOs. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that the State Department discriminated with respect to assignments, performance appraisals, promotions, tenure, and selection out and furthermore had retaliated against African-American FSOs for objecting to these unlawful employment practices. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 229 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

The plaintiffs filed their first motion to certify the lawsuit as a class action on January 15, 1987, prior to taking any discovery. The motion was denied by the Court (Judge Revercomb) on July 20, 1987. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 229 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

On April 28, 1988, the Court (Judge Revercomb) denied the plaintiff's motion to reconsider class certification, but granted Plaintiffs' motion to file an amended complaint thereby allowing 30 additional individuals to intervene in order to assert claims of discriminatory employment practices and retaliatory behavior against the Department. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 229 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

From 1988 to 1994, a lengthy and contentious discovery took place. The plaintiffs brought in a research firm to do statistical analysis to find significant evidence of discrimination in the FSO. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 229 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

On December 6, 1991, after the Congressional enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the plaintiffs moved to file a second amended complaint to demonstrate that their claims against the Department were based on a disparate impact as well as a disparate treatment theory of liability and to request a jury trial, compensatory damages, prejudgment interest, and expert fees, which were not available to Plaintiffs prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 229-230 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

After the complaint was filed, the Court (Judge Revercomb) set a deadline for a renewed motion of class certification. In the meantime, the Court suspended discovery and permitted the parties to pursue settlement negotiations. After deadlines were extended, and the talks flatlined, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint and soon after motioned for class certification. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 230 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

On June 15, 1994, the plaintiffs filed their motion for class certification. However, settlement negotiations under the supervision of Magistrate Judge Alan Kay, were ongoing, and the class certification hearing was scheduled and postponed several times. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 230 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

In February of 1995, the two sides came to an agreement in principle, and while various plaintiffs continued to oppose elements of the agreement, and negotiations continued. Ultimately the parties signed a consent decree on January 31, 1996. The Court granted preliminary approval on March 22, 1996. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 230 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

The consent decree provided an injunction, effective for four years, prohibiting the State Department from discriminating on the basis of race in promotions, awards, censuring, terminations, performance evaluations, selection out, post and duty assignments, conal assignments, or training. The injunction also barred the State Department from retaliating against any class member for participation in equal employment opportunity activities. The decree further provided for a senior level Council for Equality in the Workplace to monitor and advance equal employment opportunities in the Department. And also, the decree provided for revision and expansion of the State Department's Diversity Awareness training for FSOs and FSO supervisors. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 232 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

The agreement provided for the class to receive a total award of $3.8 million in satisfaction of all class claims for monetary relief. $125,000 was distributed to the 30 named Plaintiffs, including $40,000 to Walter J. Thomas, the lead plaintiff, and $85,000 among the 29 other named Plaintiffs. $2.9 million was distributed to class members who did not receive promotions or whose promotions were delayed. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 234 (D.C.D.C. 1996). And the settlement provided for $2.1 million in attorney's fees. Thomas v. Baker, 169 F.R.D. 235 (D.C.D.C. 1996).

Many members of the proposed class who were dissatisfied with the settlement sued the class counsel for malpractice in County Court in the District of Columbia.

On December 8, 1999, the District Court (Judge Sporkin) ruled against former members of the class who had brought malpractice lawsuits against class counsel in state court, upholding a previous order enjoining the clients from pursuing malpractice suits. Thomas v. Baker, 77 F.Supp.2d 114 (D.D.C. 1999).

The case was closed on June 20, 2001.

Matthew Aibel - 04/07/2008


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Monitoring
Promotion
Provide antidiscrimination training
Retaliation Prohibition
Utilize objective hiring/promotion criteria
Utilize objective job description
Discrimination-area
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Promotion
Seniority
Testing
Training
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Retaliation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) James Baker
Plaintiff Description two African-American Foreign Service Officers filing on behalf of themselves and similarly situated individuals. later joined by 30 additional black employees of the Department of State.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1996 - 2000
Case Closing Year 2001
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:86−cv−02850 (D.D.C.) 06/20/2001
EE-DC-0037-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order [Denying Plaintiffs' Motion For Class Certification] 07/20/1987 (1987 WL 14980) (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0037-0006 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion [Approving Consent Decree And Stating Consent Decree] 11/07/1996 (169 F.R.D. 224) (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0037-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Opinion And Order Upholding District Court's Certification Of Class And Approval Of Consent Decree For Fairness] 03/27/1998 (139 F.3d 227)
EE-DC-0037-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion [And Order Granting Injunctive Relief To Class Counsel Against Opt-Out Members Of The Settlement] 12/08/1999 (77 F.Supp.2d 114) (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0037-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Opinion And Order Upholding District Court's Holding That The Anti-Injunction Act Bars Plaintiffs From Pursuing An Action In The D.C. Superior Court] 04/27/2001 (247 F.3d 260)
EE-DC-0037-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Attridge, Patrick J. (D.D.C.) [Magistrate]
EE-DC-0037-9000
Buckley, Frank Court not on record
EE-DC-0037-0003
Edwards, Harry Thomas (D.C. Circuit)
EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0004
Facciola, John M. Court not on record
EE-DC-0037-9000
Ginsburg, Douglas Howard (D.C. Circuit)
EE-DC-0037-0003
Kay, Alan (D.D.C.) [Magistrate]
EE-DC-0037-9000
Randolph, Arthur Raymond (D.C. Circuit)
EE-DC-0037-0004
Revercomb, George Hughes (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0037-0006 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Robertson, James (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0037-9000
Sentelle, David Bryan (W.D.N.C., D.C. Circuit)
EE-DC-0037-0004
Sporkin, Stanley (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Carl E. (Ohio)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Chuzi, George Michael (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-9000
Connelly, Warren Eugene (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Hutchinson, Barbara B. (Maryland)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Kalijarvi, June Dorothy (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-9000
Race, Dennis Michael (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-9000
Robbins, G. Arthur (Maryland)
EE-DC-0037-0004
Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Turner, Leslie Marie (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-9000
Warren, Charles Lindsay (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Watson, Theresa Grace Lawhorn (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Whitworth, David Gregg Jr. (Maryland)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0004 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Zeiler, Jay Dean (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bates, John D. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0003
Birch, John Oliver (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Lawrence, R. Craig (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0003
Leary, Mary Lou (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0003
Manning, Meredith (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Reback, Richard Neal (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Schnedar, Cynthia Ann (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0003 | EE-DC-0037-0005 | EE-DC-0037-9000
Other Lawyers Buchanan, Avis E. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0003
Schlegel, Richard (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0003
Sutton, S. Robert (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0037-0002 | EE-DC-0037-9000

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