Racial Discrimination Suit Against Xerox Gets Class Action Status

March 24, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Black sales employees at Xerox claiming they were discriminated against in being assigned to unprofitable territories and not receiving promotions despite their performance have been granted class action status in their federal civil right lawsuit.

>Class action status was granted in the case following the recommendation contained in a magistrate judge’s written report.   The class includes all black sales employees of Xerox who worked for the company in the United States from February 1, 1997, to the date of a judgment.   Attorneys representing the plaintiffs estimate the class to include 1,000 people, according to a New York Law Journal report.

>However, the class is limited to injunctive and declaratory claims.   Claims for damages and remediations must be pursued individually, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in Warren v. Xerox Corp.  Denied by Gleeson was class action status in claims that Xerox retaliated against the black employees for asserting their civil rights.

>Filed in May 2001, the discrimination suit alleges Xerox initiated a sales restructuring program in 1997 that violated federal civil rights law.   Under the revamped sales program black sales employees were systematically assigned to sales territories in low income and minority neighborhoods.   The suit also alleges Xerox would not grant promotions or transfers to more profitable sales territories to black sales associates regardless of performance and that sales commissions were denied to black sales representatives.

Xerox contends the 1997 sales staff restructuring was a “decentralized and multifaceted” process for sales assignments that was not based on race and that any disparity in compensation was based on individual performance.   Arguing against the findings contained in U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann’s recommendation for class action status, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company said the report failed to establish a nexus between the territory configurations and the alleged income disparities.

The photocopy dealer failed to sway Mann.   Rather the court was more convinced with a report issued by an expert testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs who “reveal[ed] a statistically significant disparity between the earnings of black and white salespersons at Xerox,” according to the magistrate’s recommendation.

Gleeson ultimately determined the plaintiffs had successfully established entitlement to proceed under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23 as a class.