University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Brewer v. Miller Brewing Co. EE-NY-0221
Docket / Court 5:93CV01600 ( N.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection Private Employment Class Actions
Case Summary
On December 23, 1993, three employees of the Miller Brewing Company filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Norther District of New York on behalf of all African American employees of the company’s plant in Fulton, N.Y. They alleged racial harassment under Title VII of ... read more >
On December 23, 1993, three employees of the Miller Brewing Company filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Norther District of New York on behalf of all African American employees of the company’s plant in Fulton, N.Y. They alleged racial harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and § 296 of Article 15 of the New York State Executive Laws. The employees, represented by private counsel, sought compensatory and punitive damages. The case was assigned to Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. on December 23, 1993.

According to the New York Times, the plaintiffs alleged that they had been subject to pervasive harassment and discrimination. They described racist graffiti that had been put on the lockers and walls of the plant, as well as cords tied into hangman’s nooses. Some employees also received threatening calls and notes. Twice, messages saying to “kill” black people were found in the employee restrooms. One particular African American employee was subjected to frequent racial slurs over the plant wide public address system, until the employee took an 11 month medical leave of absence.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed and prior to the class action being certified, the company began reaching out to previously terminated African American employees to offer them “severance” packages which included releases of any claims against Miller. On January 26, 1994, the plaintiffs filed for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the company from issuing these severances, which they claimed would irreparably harm potential class members who elected not to take the severances. Miller agreed to stop issuing the severance packages pending a hearing on the preliminary injunction. On February 7, Judge Scullin denied the preliminary injunction on the grounds that the letter being sent by Miller, which included the addresses and telephone numbers of class counsel, was not coercive or misleading and would not irreparably harm the plaintiff’s class.

In December of 1994, before the class had been certified, Miller Brewing reached a settlement with 97 former African American workers at the Fulton plant and individual settlements with two of the three original employees who came forward with complaints. The New York Times reported that the company agreed to pay out $2.7 million to these former workers but admitted no wrongdoing. The individual settlement terms were not disclosed. The motion for settlement was granted on December 29, 1994 and the final settlement was approved on February 27, 1995. The case is now closed.

Jonah Feitelson - 03/05/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Discrimination-area
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action State Anti-Discrimination Law
State law
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Miller Brewing Company
Plaintiff Description Black former employees of a Miller Brewing plant in New York.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Mooted before ruling
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 12/23/1993
Case Closing Year 1995
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  New York Times - Race and the American Workplace
Date: Jun. 20, 1994
By: Michael Janofsky
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D.N.Y.
09/28/2007
5:93CV01600
EE-NY-0221-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: Westlaw
General Documents
N.D.N.Y.
06/07/1994
Order [ECF# 35] (1994 WL 287007)
EE-NY-0221-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
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Judges Scullin, Frederick James Jr. (FISC, N.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-0001 | EE-NY-0221-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Persky, Bernard (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-9000
Roberts, Anita U (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-9000
Seymour, Richard Talbot (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-9000
Vinick, Sharon R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Grooms, Thomas J (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-9000
Other Lawyers Cohen, Sanford M. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0221-9000

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