PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) - Class members and Bashas' Inc. have settled a lawsuit a more than decade-old alleging the grocery store company discriminated against Hispanic employees.
Bashas' agreed to pay $6.5 million to resolve claims for class damages, administrative expenses, service awards to the Gonzalo Estrada and Aurelia Martinez and attorneys fees and costs, according to the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary approval of class action settlement filed Aug. 27 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
Bashas' will deposit the full amount in a qualified settlement fund, or an escrow account if the court has not yet ruled on final approval, on Feb. 16.
There is no reversion of any funds to the employer, according to the suit.
"The agreement allocates $400,000 as an administrative cost fund," the settlement document states. "The parties negotiated this amount because locating class members in this case presents unique challenges, resulting from the very long duration of the case."
The class period opens in 1998 and, according to Bashas’, approximately 90 percent of the class members are no longer employed with the defendant.
"It is likely that some class members will have moved from the address that they used while employed at [the defendant]," the document states. "It is also likely that some class members have moved or returned to Mexico or other countries in Central America. Moreover, mailing claim checks to class members in Mexico requires several additional administrative steps to ensure that they are received."
A final challenge is that many class members are monolingual Spanish speakers, requiring all communications to be in both English and Spanish, according to the document. After considering these challenges and researching options for distributing checks in Mexico, the plaintiffs earmarked this sum as the amount necessary to ensure that as many class members as possible are located and that they receive their claim share.
Each class member's share of the settlement will be calculated based upon the difference between his or her actual hours worked and hourly rates received at the defendant's stores, with the same number of hours at the hourly rates paid at Bashas' and A.J.'s Fine Foods for the same time period.
Five percent simple interest will be added to the wage loss to reach an individual loss calculation.
Estrada and Martinez may apply for a service payment of up to $10,000 to compensate them for the services that they provided to the class over the past decade, to be paid from the gross settlement fund, according to the settlement.
Class counsel requests attorneys' fees in the amount of $1.625 million and related non-taxable expenses in the amount of $178,761.26.
The lawsuit was filed in April 2002 when the plaintiffs claimed that Bashas' violated Title VII and Section 1981 when it used lower pay scales to pay its Hispanic hourly workers who worked at its Food City grocery stores from 1998 to 2007.
In May 2013, after many years of litigation, the court granted certification of a class of over 12,000 Hispanic Food City workers challenging the discriminatory pay policy.
The plaintiffs claimed they and class members who were employed by Bashas' at Food City were paid less than workers at Bashas' other grocery stores, as documented in the company’s written pay scales.
The plaintiffs are represented by Jocelyn D. Larkin of the Impact Fund; and Andrew Joseph Kahn and Elizabeth A. Lawrence of Davis, Cowell & Bowe LLP
The defendant is represented by Elizabeth Anne Schallop Call, Douglas David Janicik and Stephanie J. Quincy of Steptoe & Johnson LLP; Raymond Myles Deeny, Thomas J. Kennedy and Theodore A. Olsen of Sherman & Howard LLC; and Kate Elizabeth Frenzinger of DLA Piper LLP.
The case is assigned to District Judge Diane J. Humetewa.
U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona case number: 2:02-cv-00591
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.