University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Hill v. Merrill Gardens LLC EE-IN-0129
Docket / Court 1:04-cv-00248 ( N.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection Private Employment Class Actions
Case Summary
On June 25, 2004, two African-American job applicants filed a class action lawsuit against Defendant Merrill Gardens LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs alleged that the private corporation systematically targeted ... read more >
On June 25, 2004, two African-American job applicants filed a class action lawsuit against Defendant Merrill Gardens LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs alleged that the private corporation systematically targeted African-American job applicants for non-selection in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, the plaintiffs asserted that the defendant maintained a secret policy of notating all African-Americans’ job applications in an effort to prevent African-Americans from being hired. This case was ultimately assigned to Chief Judge Theresa Springmann.

On January 4, 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) separately filed suit in a case available (in this Clearinghouse) against Merrill Gardens under Title VII for a pattern or practice of refusing to hire people of color and failing to preserve records relevant to determining whether discriminatory practices had taken place. The EEOC sought relief for six named applicants of color and a class of people of color adversely impacted by the defendant’s alleged discrimination. Because of the similarity between the claims and the classes, the parties in the EEOC and private class-action consolidated their claims.

On June 16, 2005, the parties in litigation negotiated a proposed resolution of the cases together because they involved overlapping claims and classes. The parties requested that the cases be consolidated solely for the purpose of approving requested class relief in the Hill action and entry of a proposed consent decree in the EEOC action. The court accordingly granted preliminary approval of the requested class relief and the proposed consent decree.

On September 9, 2005, Judge Springmann held a fairness hearing whereby the court heard evidence and testimony of interested parties to determine whether the proposed settlement was fair, adequate, and reasonable.

On October 6, 2005, the court granted final approval of the class action settlement and entry of the consent decree. 2005 WL 2465250. The class included the named plaintiffs (the “known class”) and all non-white job applicants who applied for a position at Merrill Gardens between February 17, 1998 and April 18, 2005 who were denied employment for positions that were or may have been given to non-minority applicants (the “unknown class”). The settlement agreement awarded $324,000 to the known class, shared amongst the named plaintiffs. The unknown class received $325,000. In addition, the agreement awarded class counsel $100,000 in attorneys’ fees.

On October 4, 2005 in the parallel EEOC action, the court entered a negotiated consent decree against Merrill Gardens. The decree, which lasted a total of 42 months, ordered Merrill Gardens to:
  • Post a notice of nondiscrimination
  • Provide equal employment opportunity training to all employees and provide the Commission all written materials for review prior to the training
  • Revise its application and hiring procedures in accordance with nondiscrimination best practices


There has been no litigation subsequent to the approved settlement agreement and the case is now closed.

Hope Brinn - 09/30/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Post/Distribute Notice of Rights / EE Law
Provide antidiscrimination training
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Utilize objective hiring/promotion criteria
Discrimination-area
Hiring
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
EEOC-centric
Private Suit Related / Consolidated with EEOC Suit
General
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
EEOC Plaintiff
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Merrill Gardens LLC
Plaintiff Description A class of African-American job applicants.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2004
Case Closing Year 2006
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing EE-IN-0070 : EEOC v. MERRILL GARDENS LLC (N.D. Ind.)
Docket(s)
1:04-cv-00248-TLS-RBC (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/12/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
EE-IN-0129-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/25/2004
Memorandum in Support of Motion to Conditionally Certify a Settlement Class, Approve Class Representative and Appoint Class Counsel, Preliminary Approve Settlement, Approve and Order Class Notice to be Given and Schedule Fairness Hearing
EE-IN-0129-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/20/2005
Stipulated Order Granting Preliminary Approval to Class Action Settlement, Conditional Class Certification, and Proposed Consent Decree (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/08/2005
Order [ECF# 52] (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Final Approval to Class Action Settlement, Entry of Final Judgment, and Entering Consent Decree (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2005
Order [includes settlement agreement] (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2005
Opinion and Order Granting Final Approval to Class Action Settlement, Entry of Final to Class Action Settlement, Entry of Final Judgment, and Entering Consent Decree [ECF# 72] (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement
EE-IN-0129-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2005
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 74]
EE-IN-0129-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Verified Final Report and Request for Approval
EE-IN-0129-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/11/2006
Joint Verified Final Report and Court Approval and Final Order (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/12/2006
Judges Springmann, Theresa Lazar (N.D. Ind.)
EE-IN-0129-0010 | EE-IN-0129-0011
Plaintiff's Lawyers Menzie, John T. (Indiana)
EE-IN-0129-0007
Mulholland, Shane C. (Indiana)
EE-IN-0129-0007

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