On March 9, 2001, a group of African-American employees filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc. in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, ...
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On March 9, 2001, a group of African-American employees filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc. in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the Court for injunctive relief and damages alleging discrimination in promotion practices. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that Sodexho discriminated against African-Americans in managerial, salaried positions, relying on both the disparate treatment and disparate impact theories.
The plaintiffs asserted that most of the managerial slots were filled without the jobs ever being posted. Further, when jobs were posted, pre-selection occurred that disadvantaged African-Americans because the decision-makers were primarily white. The plaintiffs also asserted that, when there was competition for a managerial position, these decision-makers had unfettered discretion in making their decision because they were not given job-related or objective criteria. Since there was no required documentation explaining their reasons, the decisions were un-reviewable. McReynolds v. Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc., 349 F.Supp.2d 6 (D.D.C. 2004).
On June 27, 2002, the Court (Judge Ellen S. Huvelle) granted class certification as to liability but not damages. McReynolds v. Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc., 208 F.R.D. 449 (D.D.C. 2004). The parties then engaged in almost two years of heated discovery.
On December 20, 2004, the Court handed down two orders. The first was an order denying defendant's motion for summary judgment except with respect to the plaintiffs' disparate impact claim, which the court dismissed with prejudice. According to the Court, given the inconsistencies in Sodexho's own evidence, and in light of the substantial testimony offered by plaintiffs, the Court must, for summary judgment purposes, credit plaintiffs' contention that Sodexho used a decentralized, subjective promotions process. McReynolds v. Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc., 349 F.Supp.2d 20 (D.D.C. 2004).
The Court's decision to dismiss the disparate impact claim was in part to do with the second order handed down that day: also on December 20, 2004, the Court denied the defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's expert testimony. The plaintiffs brought on a statistics expert to compute the promoting rates of the class members, and the defense likewise hired a similar expert. The expert opinions differed concerning their analysis of the promoting rate, and the defense moved to strike the plaintiff's expert testimony. The Court did not rule which testimony was the correct one, ruling instead that both met the minimum requirements for admissible testimony. McReynolds v. Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc., 349 F.Supp.2d 34 (D.D.C. 2004).
On May 2, 2005, the two sides reached a settlement. The settlement yielded up to a potential $80 million for those who claimed class status. As part of the settlement, the company also continued its diversity programs training. After a minor battle over attorney fees, the Court approved over $21 million in attorney fees and another $2 million in costs. The case was closed on September 7, 2006.Matthew Aibel - 04/20/2008