Current Cases

Temporary Staffing Agency Litigation

Status Current Case

Practice area Civil Rights & Employment

Court U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Case number 13-cv-01524, 12-cv-09672


Increasingly, our economy depends on staffing agencies to recruit and place candidates in jobs at a broad range of employers.  Charged with the critical responsibility of identifying, recruiting, and screening candidates, staffing agencies function as the gate keepers for workers’ access to many jobs.  At the same time, staffing agencies serve the employers to which they refer candidates for employment by applying the employers’ preferences and criteria for candidates to fill the open jobs.  As there are many staffing agencies competing for the same referral business, the pressures are great to implement any and all preferences employers express for candidates that are referred. 

A number of leading civil rights and labor experts believe that racial discrimination has become rampant in the temporary staffing industry, where placements are at an all-time high of nearly three millions workers per month (up from 1 million in 1990), according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  Investigation into this industry has in fact revealed that some employers, and the staffing agencies recruiting candidates for them, have clandestinely declined qualified African American candidates for vacant jobs. 

Starting on December 6, 2016, Cohen Milstein, along with the Workers’ Law Office of Chicago, filed several putative class actions on behalf of African-American workers, against Personnel Staffing Group dba MVP Staffing, which operates over 60 job placement offices in nearly 40 states. The complaints alleges eight counts of race-based discrimination against MVP and seven of its clients served out of MVP’s office in Cicero, IL, just outside of Chicago—including a plastics manufacturer, an auto-parts maker, a commercial printing and marketing firm, and two large-scale food processors.  The thrust of the lawsuits — MVP complied with a request from these clients not to assign African-American workers as temporary workers.

In all of the cases, plaintiffs detail calculated efforts by MVP to recruit Latino workers over African-Americans through targeted advertising, transportation, and Spanish-only training materials, and accuse hiring supervisors of using code words to differentiate between African-American and Hispanic laborers, conducting criminal background checks on only black workers, and suggesting that African-Americans were less desirable employees.  If MVP did assign an African-American, they often were marked “DNR” (Do Not Return) during or at the end of their first shift.

Across the remaining active lawsuits, Plaintiffs allege that at least seven of MVP’s clients—including a plastics manufacturer, an auto-parts maker, a commercial printing and marketing firm, and two large-scale food processors—indicated they did not want African-American workers assigned as temporary workers.  In the Vee Pak litigation, Plaintiffs further allege that staffing agencies Staffing Network Holdings, Inc. and Alternative Staffing, d/b/a ASI, just like MVP, complied with an illicit request from client Vee Pak to not assign African-American workers for day-laborer work.

“The allegations in this case demonstrate a clear and disturbing pattern of race-based discrimination, denying low- and middle-income employment opportunities to people because they are African-American,” said Joseph Sellers, Chair of the Civil Rights and Employment Practice at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.  “These companies are violating the civil rights of individuals who are trying to earn a decent living wage.”

Status of the Cases

Eagle v. Vee-Pak, Inc., No. 1:2012cv09672 (N.D. Ill.)

After 12 years of litigation, on April 19, 2024, the court granted final approval of settlements totaling $11.1 million against Vee-Pak, Personnel Staffing Group, and Alternative Staffing, Inc. (ASI) in this certified race discrimination class action brought by African American laborers who alleged that temporary staffing agencies declined African American candidates for vacant jobs in service of their clients’ discriminatory preferences, including those of Vee-Pak. In 2018, evidence produced by ASI, the first defendant to settle, changed the course of the litigation against the other defendants by offering direct evidence of discrimination. The case involved novel joint employer issues.

This case was originally named Lucas v. Vee-Pak, Inc. No. 1:2012cv09672 (N.D. Ill.)

Zollicoffer v. Gold Standard Baking, Inc., No. 13 C 1524 (N.D. Ill.)

On April 10, 2023, the Court granted final approval of a $1 million settlement, concluding this litigation. On March 31, 2020, the Honorable Sara L. Ellis for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted class certification to a group of African American workers who filed this race-based employment discrimination class action against Defendants Gold Standard Baking, Inc. (“GSB”) and Personnel Staffing Group, LLC, doing business as Most Valuable Personnel (“MVP”).

Lucas, et al. v. Ferrara Candy Company, et al., No. 1:13-cv-01525 (N.D. Ill.)

Plaintiffs filed suit against Remedial Environmental Manpower, Inc. (REM Staffing), Labor Power, Inc., and Ferrara Candy Co.—the maker of lemonheads and several other popular candies—in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2013.  On November 29, 2016, the Court approved a settlement in this case, Lucas v. Ferrara Candy Co., for $1,500,000.00.  

Hunt v. Pers. Staffing Grp., LLC, No. 1:16-cv-11086 (N.D. Ill.)

On August 4, 2020, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, John J. Tharp, granted final approval to a $588,000 settlement in Hunt v. MVP. Settlement discussions continue with just one other company named in the suit, MPS Chicago.