The class-action suit was filed in Federal District Court in the Western District of New York by 10 plaintiffs and the Employees Committed for Justice, an association that represents 1,000 African-American current and ex-Kodak employees. The group is seeking unspecified damages.
In the suit, the employees allege Kodak has allowed the pattern of discrimination to occur for more than a decade. Additionally, the group alleges Kodak’s unwillingness to bring about change to these civil right employment violations resulted in a hostile work environment for Kodak’s black workers.
“We’re hopeful that in the end, this will make Kodak a better company,” said William Coleman, III, an attorney with Burger & Montague, the Philadelphia law firm that is the lead firm in the case.
The action was taken after a breakdown in negotiations over several months between Kodak and the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Talks had begun in February when the Buffalo office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found after a four-and-half-year investigation that the company had been engaging in discriminatory practices. Following the initial investigation, Kodak acknowledged a disparity in pay and promotions for black employees in some departments. Kodak created the “Do the Right Thing Award,” a program that paid $10 million in back pay as well as $3 million in annual raises to correct racial and gender inequality in pay dating to 1990.
However, the suit claims hundreds of class members who had suffered race discrimination were not made aware of this program and complaints against Kodak continued to rise.
“Kodak says it’s been taking steps to address discrimination,” said attorney Clayborne Chavers, whose Washington-based The Chavers Law Firm is co-lead firm representing the plaintiffs. “But the steps they’ve been taking amount to a cover-up, window dressing.”