On October 15, 2008, African-American employees at the freight transportation company Yellow Transportation, Inc. ("Yellow") filed a class action lawsuit against their employer in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The plaintiffs, represented by an attorney from the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and private counsel, sought declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief as well as class certification. They alleged that Yellow created a racially hostile work environment for African-American employees working at Yellow's facility in Chicago Ridge, IL, from October 15, 2004 to the present. They also claimed that Yellow subjected those employees to disparate treatment and retaliated against them when they complained about the discriminatory practice. The named plaintiffs also brought their individual claims against the employer.
The parties started the discovery process with regard to the issue of class certification. During March and June 2009, Yellow served 19 subpoenas on the plaintiffs' former employers, requesting various information regarding their previous employment. Yellow claimed that some of the plaintiffs failed to disclose their claims against it in their filings of bankruptcy proceedings despite their knowledge of the claims, and that some failed to disclose criminal convictions on their job applications with Yellow. The plaintiffs moved to quash subpoenas and for protective order. The District Court (Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan) granted the plaintiffs' motion on October 9. 2009. 2009 WL 3270791 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 9, 2009). Yellow then moved for leave to amend its answer and add the affirmative defenses of judicial estoppel and after-acquired evidence. The Court (Judge Joan B. Gottschall) granted the motion on January 14, 2010. 2010 WL 152000 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 14, 2010).
In the meantime, in or about March 2009, YRC, Inc. ("YRC"), Yellow's parent company, merged Yellow with another YRC company, Roadway Express, Inc. ("Roadway"). In December 2009, the plaintiffs and the proposed class who were still on the job were transferred to a former Roadway facility in Chicago Heights, IL. In the same month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") started its own lawsuit against Yellow and YRC, EEOC v. Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC, Inc.
, linked below as a related case (Clearinghouse code: EE-IL-0330). It was filed in the same district court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the plaintiffs in this case later joined that one, too, as intervenor plaintiffs.
Back in this case, on April 12, 2010, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding YRC as a co-defendant and an individual as a named plaintiff. They also redefined the hostile work environment class to include individuals working at both the Chicago Ridge and Chicago Heights facilities. This modification was in light of a then ongoing case filed by the EEOC originally against Roadway EEOC v. Roadway Express, Inc.
, linked below (Clearinghouse code: EE-IL-0189). The action was brought on behalf of African-American employees working at the Roadway facility in Chicago Heights for race discrimination.
Yellow opposed to this last change, arguing that the class definition was too broad. The plaintiffs then moved to withdraw the amended complaint and to file a new one, with a hostile work environment class including only former Chicago Ridge employees. The Court (Magistrate Judge Nolan) granted the motion on July 26, 2010, reasoning that it was not clear yet to the Court that both Yellow and Roadway employees were complaining of the same events. Brown v. Yellow Transp., Inc., 08 C 5908, 2010 WL 2911786 (N.D. Ill. July 26, 2010). The corrected amended complaint was filed the next day.
Subsequently, the plaintiffs moved to certify class and the defendants filed their opposition. On May 11, 2011, the Court (Judge Gottschall) granted the plaintiffs' motion to certify the class. 2011 WL 1838741 (N.D. Ill. May 11, 2011). The defendants filed a petition for permission to appeal to the appellate court, but it was denied on July 1, 2011.
On June 27, 2012, the case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox, upon both parties' consent, for settlement proceedings. Negotiations were successful, and this Brown case and the EEOC case were consolidated for the purpose of a consent decree, which Magistrate Judge Cox signed on September 25, 2012.
In the decree, the defendants agreed to pay $11,000,000 to the plaintiff class; the EEOC was placed in charge of allocating the award to eligible individuals. No injunction was issued, since the Chicago Ridge facility was closed and the Chicago Heights facility was already subject to a consent decree issued in EEOC v. Roadway Express, Inc.
After some court proceedings regarding award allocation, the case ended. Emma Bao - 07/25/2013