Judge Orders Multi-million Payment To Sheet Metal Workers In Employment Discrimination Case

State Attorney General Spitzer and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani today announced an important decision in a 25-year-old discrimination case in which hundreds of minority sheet metal workers were denied equal work opportunities through representation by Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Union. The Union will pay more than $2.6 million in back wages to the workers.

The award was designed to compensate victims for the Union's practices that were found to be discriminatory in 1975, yet persisted through the early 1990s. As a result of these practices, hundreds of minority sheet metal workers were denied hours and opportunities in the construction trades.

The decision was handed down by Manhattan Federal Judge Robert Carter last week. In hearings earlier this year, the Attorney General's office, (representing the State Division of Human Rights), the City of New York and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission presented evidence of Local 28's ability to make reparations to minority workers who were harmed by the Union's practice of only assisting non-minority journeypersons to find jobs with contractors from 1984-1991.

"My office stands firm in its commitment to enforce state and federal laws that guarantee equal employment opportunities to all New Yorkers," said Spitzer.

Corporation Counsel Michael Hess stated: "The City's commitment to equal opportunity has been a motivating force in this long standing effort to open up the construction industry to minorities."

Under terms of the decision, the Local 28 Union will place $1 million in an escrow fund immediately, $1.6 million within six months of the Court's order, and $900,000 per year starting December 31, 2001 for a period to be determined by the Court following individual back pay hearings. Based on the statistical evidence presented in the plaintiffs' motion, it is anticipated that several hundred minority journeypersons will be afforded the opportunity to make claims for back pay against the Union.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Carrie Cohen of the AG's Civil Rights Bureau, which is under the supervision of Bureau Chief Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Deputy Bureau Chief Mark G. Peters. For the City of New York, the case was handled by Assistant Corporation Counsel Barbara Mehlman of the Affirmation Litigation Division of the Corporation Counsel's Office, which is under the supervision of Division Chief Lorna B. Goodman. Ann Thacher Anderson of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission worked on the case under the supervision of Katherine E. Bissell, Acting Regional Attorney.

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