August 4, 2020
An Illinois federal judge on Tuesday granted final approval to a $588K deal that settles allegations national staffing agency MVP subjected a class of Black workers to discriminatory hiring practices.
U.S. District Judge John Tharp said during a telephone hearing that the agreement among the class, MVP — also known as Personnel Staffing Group LLC — and several other Chicago-area companies that contracted with MVP and were also named in the suit was a fair and reasonable resolution to the litigation.
Settlement discussions persist with just one other company named in the suit, MPS Chicago, but attorneys told Judge Tharp Tuesday that the parties were close to a deal.
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The suit, first filed in December 2016, claims the staffing agency complied with several of its clients’ requests not to refer African American employees, selecting primarily Hispanic workers instead.
Filed along with the suit were statements from former administrative employees of MVP detailing how clients allegedly used code words to communicate their requests for exclusively Hispanic workers and punished administrative staff who gave assignments to African American workers.
The companies used stereotypes to dictate their desire for exclusively Hispanic workers, the suit claims. Code words like “guapos” — Spanish for “pretty boys” — referred to African Americans based on a stereotype that they were unwilling to do dirty work, according to the complaint. By contrast, Hispanic workers were called “feos,” or “dirty ones.”
Among the statements submitted with the suit was one from a former manager of the Cicero office who said the company screened out people who “looked gang-related” based on their tattoos, how they wore their clothes or where they lived.
And if African American workers were referred to a company that did not want workers of their race, their file would be marked “Do Not Return” before the end of their first shift, the suit claimed.
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The plaintiffs are represented by Christopher J. Williams of the National Legal Advocacy Network; Joseph M. Sellers, Shaylyn Cochran and Harini Srinivasan of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC; and Javier Eduardo Castro of the Raise The Floor Alliance.
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