On Tuesday, January 15, 2008, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that Judge Robert L. Carter of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of a $6.2 million settlement that would compensate black and Hispanic sheet metal workers who suffered discrimination by their union.

The EEOC, the State and City of New York, along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under The Law in Washington, DC and the New York law firm of Debevoise and Plimpton, acting as co-counsel on a pro bono basis, sued Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association for causing the under payment of black and Hispanic workers due to the implementation of the job referral system. According to the EEOC, this practice has been worsening in recent years.

The settlement compensates minority members of Local 28 for lost wages for the period 1984 to 1991. The parties to the settlement also agreed to significant changes to the union’s job referral system as well as monitoring systems designed to equalize a member’s access to job opportunities. Litigation and settlement negotiations for union members who suffered claims after 1991 is ongoing. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits race and national origin discrimination by labor unions.