February 23, 2023
An Illinois federal judge gave class status to a group of about 13,500 Black workers who say they were turned away from temporary jobs at a beauty product manufacturer by three staffing agencies because of their race, noting that testimony suggests the manufacturer had a common employment policy.
U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. rejected arguments from Vee Pak LLC and Staffing Network Holdings LLC that litigating the decade-old claims would require too many individualized inquiries, ruling Tuesday that not every member of the proposed class needs to prove harm before it can be certified.
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Joseph Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, who is representing the class, told Law360 the 50-page opinion was a “very thoughtful, thorough treatment of the subjects that affect class certification.”
“This has been going on a long time, and our clients have waited a very long time for relief,” Sellers said. “We feel like we’re close to the light at the end of the tunnel here.”
He added that barring any challenge to the class certification, he expects the court will set a trial date later this year.
Vee Pak, Staffing Network and Alternative Staffing are also part of a suit filed by the Illinois attorney general in May. According to the complaint, six staffing agencies engaged in a three-year conspiracy, supported by Vee Pak, to refrain from recruiting or otherwise poaching the temporary workers they assigned to the beauty product manufacturer’s facilities in order to lessen competition.
Sellers said that while they’re two separate cases, he thinks the Illinois attorney general has found, as he has, that some staffing agencies cater to the prejudices of companies they work with.
“Not only is that unlawful, but it’s the kind of practice that should end for the entire industry,” he said. “And we hope that these cases will help bring that to an end.”
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The class is represented by Joseph M. Sellers and Harini Srinivasan of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, by Christopher J. Williams of the National Legal Advocacy Network, and by Christopher J. Wilmes and Caryn C. Lederer of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd.
Read the article on Law360.