AMTRAK RACE DISCRIMINATION LITIGATION
Employment Litigation in the District Court for the District of Columbia:
Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak, 1:99CV02979 (EGS) – SETTLED
The long-running case Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak, originally filed in November 1998, has now been settled. We are gratified to have reached a resolution of the case for our Campbell clients. The Campbell case demonstrates the long-term commitment Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher Goldfarb has to its clients and to the cause of civil rights. We congratulate the Campbell clients on their settlement, and thank them for retaining WCPFG to represent them.
Williams, et al. v. Amtrak, 1:21CV1122 (EGS)(MU) – ACTIVE AND ONGOING
Approximately 275 of the former putative class members, as the (uncertified) classes were defined in the Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak case, filed their own individual-plaintiffs case in 2021. We recently sent a full update letter to the Williams clients, who possess the same resolve and courage as the Campbell Plaintiffs, to continue the cause of battling racial discrimination against African-Americans employed, or seeking employment, in union-represented jobs at Amtrak. Although the Update Letter contains all the important – and privileged, confidential – information for clients, below are highlights and deadlines of public record.
- RULING BY THE COURT ON APRIL 28, 2023
- Five persons who four years ago filed a motion to join Campbell were instead placed into Williams.
- HEARING IN COURT ON JUNE 7, 2023
- The Magistrate Judge held that the Court would allow the filing of a THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT. This will be the last amended complaint allowed, absent extraordinary circumstances.
- Amtrak’s various motions to dismiss or for summary judgment were denied as moot. However, they may be refiled later.
- SCHEDULE: The Magistrate Judge entered the following schedule, which was agreed upon by the parties, which was later amended, by agreement of the parties. The current
- AUGUST 28, 2023 – THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT was filed on behalf of 154 African-American individual employees or former employees, or applicants for employment to, Amtrak
- OCTOBER 20, 2023 – Amtrak’s response to Third Amended Complaint to be filed (Answer and/or Motions)
- NOVEMBER 10, 2023 – Plaintiff’s Opposition(s) to Motion(s) to Dismiss (if Motion(s) are filed on October 20)
- DECEMBER 1, 2023 – Amtrak’s Reply to Plaintiffs’ Opposition
- To view or download the THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT that was filed August 28, 2023, and is now the operative complaint, click here.
- For all named Plaintiffs in Williams, et al. v. Amtrak:
- If your physical residence address (not P.O. Box) is now different from what is listed in the caption of the THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT, please contact lead counsel, as indicated below.
- If your other contact information, including mailing address, telephone number(s), and email address(es) have changed in the past two years, please contact lead counsel.
- If you are a named Plaintiff in Williams, listed above, but have not been able open or download the Update Letters sent out since June 1, 2023, please contact lead counsel.
- If you are a named Plaintiff in Williams, listed above, please read the Update Letter carefully and thoroughly.
- Please remember that the Update Letter, and all communications to and from your lawyers, are PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL and not to be shared with anyone else and are not to be uploaded or discussed on any type of social media.
- If you have any questions about this, or anything else regarding the case, please communicate directly with lead counsel, as indicated below, or with the staff of Wiggins Childs.
- Please note that the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which was our co-counsel in the Campbell case, is NOT involved in Williams at all. If you contact the WLC, they will simply direct you to Wiggins Childs.
- If you are listed as a Plaintiff in the Third Amended Complaint in the link above, but you do not want to be in the Williams, et al. v. Amtrak case, please contact lead counsel.
- No additional plaintiffs will be added to the Williams, et al. v. Amtrak
- Named Plaintiffs: please watch your email for more Updates and check in at this web page periodically for other news and posted documents.
Lead Attorney in the Washington, D.C. office for Williams, et al. v. Amtrak:
Timothy Fleming, of counsel
Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher Goldfarb, PLLC
2208 18th Street, N.W., # 110
Washington, D.C. 20009
Office phone no. (for voice mail only): (202) 467-4489
Fax no.: (205) 453-4907
Wiggins Childs Lawyers Victorious in Voting Rights Lawsuit Before Supreme Court
On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Allen v. Milligan that the Alabama state legislature’s congressional districting map likely violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The 5-4 decision is a major victory for voting rights. Wiggins Childs is proud to have played a role on the brilliant legal team that successfully litigated this historic case from its inception in Alabama to the United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C.
The Voting Rights Act prohibits the “denial or abridgment” of a United States citizen’s right to vote based on race. Thus, a state’s political process should be “equally open” to all voters without diminishing the participation of any minority group. The Court’s opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, affirmed the lower decisions of the District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in the Caster case, and of the three-judge District Court in the Milligan case. In doing so, the Court upheld that Alabama’s new districting plan engaged in the prohibited practice of racial gerrymandering. Despite Black residents totaling 27% of voting-age citizens in Alabama, only one out of the seven districts in Alabama’s congressional map held a Black majority. Alabama consolidated a large number of Black voters into this single district, which principally mirrors the western section of Alabama’s “Black Belt” region. The remainder of Black voters were scattered within the other six districts’ white majorities. The Court ruled this districting plan established racial gerrymandering and violated the Voting Rights Act.
This case is a major victory in preserving the sentiment of the Voting Rights Act nationwide and preventing the unjust practice of racial gerrymandering. By holding that Alabama violated voting rights, the Court acknowledged both racial injustice and, more specifically, the weakening of Black voters within the state. Moreover, the Court not only rejected Alabama’s map, but simultaneously rejected the state’s argument that the Court should consider a “race neutral benchmark” for districting schemes. Had this “race neutral benchmark” been adopted, Alabama’s proposed interpretation could have prevented future challenges to congressional maps based on unjust and racially discriminatory suppressions of political power.
Deuel Ross, Deputy Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, delivered the victorious argument in front of the Supreme Court.
Wiggins Childs attorney, Sidney Jackson, played a crucial role in this litigation, serving as co-counsel on the litigation team and local counsel for the out of state forces heading this civil rights battle, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF); the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Hogan Lovell law firm; and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Each year, the Supreme Court of the United States receives an average of 7,000-8,000 requests for appeal. Only around 1% of these appeals are granted and argued in front of the court.
Alabama inmate ‘literally baked to death’ in overheated prison cell, says lawsuit
Thomas Lee Rutledge, 44, died alone in an Alabama prison cell two years ago, sitting with his face pressed to his window, trying to breathe in cold air, as the heat piped into the mental health unit rose to an extreme level, and according to a federal lawsuit, “he was literally baked to death in his cell.”
The federal lawsuit over Rutledge’s death alleges prison guards did nothing the night of his death, despite knowing of the extreme heat in the prisoners’ cells. Lawyers argue officials at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility near Birmingham also knew the heating system in the mental health dorm, the T-unit, was broken, they knew other men had died from extreme heat due to a broken heater, and still left the men, many on psychotropic medications that made them especially vulnerable to heat, to “bake” in their cells.
According to an updated complaint filed in U.S. District Court two weeks ago, corrections investigator Clark Hopper was on the T unit the night Rutledge died from hyperthermia. Hopper opened another inmate’s tray door to speak with him, and, in a recorded interview, the investigator recalled it was like “opening an oven and when you (are) getting something out of the oven it hits your face.” He said: “When he dropped his (meal door), it was, it was just, pardon the language, but it was hotter than three hells when it dropped.”
The updated complaint spends much of its 58-pages breaking down how the heating system failed and claiming there were many ways in which the problem was ignored, overlooked, made worse or mismanaged by numerous parties, from guards to prison officials to private contractors.
Alabama Department of Corrections declined to comment for this story due to pending litigation.
The suit says Rutledge was found on December 7, 2020, with a body temperature of 109 degrees, “in his cell sitting near the window of his cell with his head/face out the window believed attempting to breath/obtain cool/cold air,” according to an autopsy which deemed his death an accident. Rutledge’s attorneys argue it was not an accident.
The lawsuit was first filed in federal court on Feb. 21, 2021, on behalf of Rutledge’s estate and his sister LaVentra Rutledge. It alleges cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and seeks damages. The case is before Judge R. David Proctor in Alabama’s Northern District.
Judge Proctor is also hearing a case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against Alabama for unsafe conditions throughout the men’s prisons.
“We are just trying to uncover the truth of what happened that resulted in Mr. Rutledge suffering such a horrible death,” said Jon Goldfarb an attorney who represents Rutledge’s estate.
Not the first death
Prison wardens and other officials knew of the risk to inmates, the lawsuit alleges, because at least two other prisoners died from the heat on the T-unit in recent years.
According to the lawsuit, on December 8 of 2019, Deborah Cook, director of Mental Health Services at Donaldson, sent an email reporting an inmate’s death from similar circumstances. The inmate, also on psychotropic medication, had an initial core temperature of 109.7 and a temperature of 108.1 about 40 minutes after dying.
“Extremely high post-mortem temperature is recognized as a sign of a neuroleptic syndrome which could have led to his death. The (health services) has contacted the institution to check the heat temperature of the cells in the T unit. It has been several years ago, but we had a major dysfunction of the boiler at Donaldson in T housing dorm, which lead to a fatal case.”
A coroner’s report on Rutledge’s death stated the men in the T-unit never leave their cells, according to the lawsuit. They eat and shower in their rooms. The cells have heating vents, but there is no way to control them, and according to the suit, in the weekend leading up to Rutledge’s death, inmates stuffed their clothes into the vents to minimize the hot air.
The lawsuit alleges on the weekend of December 5, and 6, prisoners on the T-unit complained about the hot temperatures. On the night of December 7, a moderate day, according to the lawsuit, with outdoor highs in the mid-40′s and a low of about 30 degrees, the system’s heating loop exceeded 130 degrees.
“Human beings cannot survive without remedial measures in temperatures above 101-104 for extended periods of time,” the complaint states.
Psychotropic medications, which many of the men on the T-unit were on, impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
According to the lawsuit, at 8:20 p.m. that evening, an inmate alerted an officer that Rutledge was unresponsive in his cell. Between 8:28 p.m. and 8:57 p.m. medical staff attempted CPR. By 9:10 pm an ambulance arrived, and minutes later Rutledge was declared dead.
At 9:40 pm, a chaplain called his mother to tell her.
More than half his life in prison
Thomas Lee Rutledge spent over half his life in an Alabama prison for a double murder he committed as a juvenile in 1993. A paranoid schizophrenic, Rutledge at age 17 shot two young men to death in the early morning hours after a small gathering of young men smoked marijuana together at the house of one of their grandmothers.
Originally, he was sentenced to life without parole. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that that inmates serving life without parole for murders committed when they were juveniles should be resentenced with a chance at parole. Rutledge was resentenced in 2017.
He was slated for release in 2024 when he hoped to move to Alaska with his mother.
But the suit alleges when the prison updated its air conditioning system, it fixed the surrounding units’ heat to be controlled remotely and the T-unit boiler system wasn’t updated. The suit contends contractors damaged it further during renovations. Lawyers for Rutledge claim the wardens and officers failed to institute policies requiring officers to take measures to cool inmates, and that the wardens failed to require training.
“Prison officials, including Warden Phyllis Morgan and Warden Kenneth Peters, had long been aware of problems with the boiler that posed a substantial risk of serious harm to incarcerated persons,” the suit says.
Attorneys for the wardens did not respond to a request for comment. “The Correctional Wardens explicitly deny that they violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in any respect whatsoever,” they stated in their answer to the complaint.
The Alabama Department of Corrections, initially named in the suit, has been dropped from the case. The suit still names several other prison employees and several private contractors.
The corrections employees are arguing they are protected by qualified immunity, a claim that has not yet been resolved. A trial date has not been set.
“Living and breathing” checks
The suit also contends guards took no action despite the heat. Officers at Donaldson are responsible for monitoring temperatures in inmates’ cells, according to the complaint.
The staff working the evening of Rutledge’s death did hourly “living and breathing” checks and nightly “security checks” and noted that everything was fine, despite the extreme heat, the suit alleges.
“The excessive heat far in excess of 100 degrees was obvious to officers who conducted living and breathing checks or security checks or who otherwise interacted with inmates in their cells,” the complaint stated.
Officers Christie Sansing, John Rogers, Charles Dean and Geoffrey Griffin, all named as defendants in the case, worked the night of Rutledge’s death. Officers Dean and Griffin helped inmates shower that night, the complaint states, but otherwise took no action to address the deadly heat, the suit alleges.
All four officers denied responsibility for Rutledge’s death in their answers to the lawsuit, and all four claimed immunity from suit.
Officer Rogers did “living and breathing” checks at 4:04 p.m. and 5:05 p.m. and a security check at 4:35 p.m. Officer Dean did a security check at 5:35 p.m. and “living and breathing” checks at 6:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m., and 8:05 p.m. and noted, “all 96 units alive & well and “all 96 units secure.”
Officer Griffin security checks at 6:35 and 7:35 p.m. and reported “all 96 units secure.”
Rutledge was already experiencing life-threatening heat at this point, the lawsuit alleges. At 8:30 p.m. an inmate reported to an officer that Rutledge was not responsive.
According to the lawsuit, the prison’s Psychotropic Medications and Heat Policy states that if temperatures in a cell or housing area rise to 90 degrees, inmates should be moved to a cooler cell or area and the shift commander and health services should be notified. If the inmates are too hot, above 85 degrees, staff should also offer fans, fluids, ice and extra showers.
Piecemeal repairs backfire, lawsuit claims
In 2019 and 2020, the prison added a new heating unit for seven dorms in the same building as the T Unit, says the suit. Temperatures on the new system could be controlled remotely for the seven dorms that got the upgrade, but not for the T Unit, where the mentally ill inmates were held.
The heater for the T Unit had to be controlled in the mechanical control room, according to the complaint. The complaint lists numerous private contractors, arguing mistakes and ill-fated decisions during repairs made it so temperature could not be controlled properly, leaving a continuous flow of hot air in the wintertime in the T unit whenever the system is on, making it impossible to prevent overheating.
In their responses to the lawsuit and in response to calls from AL.com, the contractors denied responsibility for the situation.
Plant maintenance supervisor Billy Kennedy, also named as a defendant, was the person managing repairs, the complaint alleges. An attorney for Mr. Kennedy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Kennedy denies that he was deliberately indifferent or acted with malice towards Rutledge,” his answer to the lawsuit stated. “Kennedy also denies that Plaintiff is entitled to damages or relief against him.”
According to the complaint, Kennedy said in a recorded statement to investigator Clark Hopper that the inmates had been complaining about the heat all weekend prior to Rutledge’s death.
Kennedy measured the unit’s temperature on Mondays, and he would have measured it that day, according to the complaint. “Nonetheless, Kennedy failed to shut down the boiler or alert prison officials,” the complaint stated.
Since the lawsuit began, evidence from the boiler room has been destroyed, the complaint alleges. On September 22, 2021, Rutledge’s lawyers requested the boiler logs kept by Kennedy. The department objected and did not release the logs. According to the suit, Kennedy testified those records were destroyed in a flood caused by a burst water pipe.
Bob Childs Memoriam
Robert “Bob” Fletcher Childs, Jr., a founding member of Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher & Goldfarb, passed away on March 27th, 2018. Bob’s absence at the downtown Birmingham firm has been a difficult adjustment for Bob’s office family, as his nearly 40 years of consistent attendance had been an unwavering representation of the firm’s staunch belief in the importance of diligence, dependability, and a commitment not only to the clients and cases represented, but as pillars of persistence to each other.
Bob Childs developed his character at an early age as a high school student in Montgomery, Alabama. His dedication to his role as an Academic All-American was only further illuminated by his talents in seemingly all athletic endeavors, as well as a social butterfly who everyone knew and loved. Bob’s younger sister, Susan, recalls being known only as “Bob’s sister” for many of her formative years – an annoying trademark for a sibling just one year below her well-liked brother. Susan’s dismay was shortsighted though, as she recognized her brother’s special place in his community, “He always had a huge heart. Everyone loved him.” This theme followed Bob throughout high school and well into college, where he expanded upon his academic and athletic competence under legendary Coach Bear Bryant.
After high school, Bob earned a full scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he continued his scholastic success while simultaneously earning accolades under Coach Bear Bryant as a defensive linebacker. In 1966, Bob earned a position as the defensive captain who, according to his teammate, Mike Reilly, was rarely second-guessed due to Bob’s honest, genuine nature and ability to stay a step ahead of Assistant Coach Donahue in the planning of strategies and techniques. “Nobody questioned his moral authority,” recalls Reilly. “Leadership was Bob’s way. He was king captain, a leader, gave straight answers, and had a real desire to win. Coach Bryant respected and loved Bob. He would pull Bob to the sideline to make sure the defense was going to pull off plays and Bob would always reassure him. He was the kind of leader Bryant wanted.” Off the field, Bob pushed for his teammates to take their studies seriously – The University of Alabama, per Coach Bryant, was just that: a university, and Bob bought into this mentality. He managed to find a balance between athletic praises and academic success impressive enough to earn his place in the University of Alabama Law School class of 1972.
Upon graduation, Bob was recruited to what is now Burr & Forman LLP, where he practiced employment discrimination defense in the form of large class actions. During Pettway vs. American Cast Iron Pipe, Bob met Robert L. Wiggins, an attorney on the opposing side. This chance meeting evolved over the next 20 years, as Wiggins and Childs ultimately became partners in 1985, focusing on employment discrimination as new firm Gordon Silberman Wiggins & Childs. Wiggins remembers Bob as “a very good lawyer, very bright, very well-liked by everybody, even the other side’s lawyers. He was never contentious. Bob was genuine and practical. He had empathy for everyone. He had very little ego.” Bob’s professional forte was heavily weighted in preparing for cases – brief-writing and research were of tremendous focus. “Bob was incredibly detail-oriented; he was always heavily prepared for cases,” laughs Wiggins. “And he was great at detail. Great at grammar! People brought briefs to Bob to make clearer. He was a known editor at the office.” Bob’s ability to earn and maintain the respect of his peers also expanded into a mentor role for younger attorneys at his office, as they seemed to flock to him for professional advice without the threat of judgement, nor the intolerance of mistakes.
Bob Childs was a mainstay at the firm, having been actively working on a large Amtrak case for the last decade. His work was only one driving interest in his life, as he maintained an unflinching interest in all University of Alabama sports, as well as the athletics of his five grandchildren. Over the course of his 71 years, Bob Childs’s integrity, character, and unpretentious approachability impacted so many. Always setting the bar high, Bob’s visions were never short-sighted, his empathy all-encompassing, and his work ethic unsurpassable. He will be greatly missed.
A New and Improved Website
It has been a busy year so far at the law firm of Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher, and Goldfarb, LLC. We have had the great fortune to engage with new clients, begin new cases, and work with new law firms. We have been able to reach positive resolutions in tough, important cases. And we have continued to grow and improve as a law firm. We have also experienced great loss recently, as one of our founding members, Bob Childs, passed away.
Throughout the ups and downs of life and business, our firm’s commitment to our clients, the law, and to justice, has never wavered. Now, as we debut a new website, we strive to continue to improve the ways in which we serve our clients, the ways in which we work with referring attorneys, and the ways in which we explain the powerful, important work that our firm does on a daily basis.
We hope you enjoy visiting us on the new website, and that you will continue to check back in for blog updates about our practice, including Q&As with members of the firm, and highlights of recent cases.
REYNOLDS V. ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is the purpose of the Notice sent by the Court in the case of Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation?
The purpose of the Notice was to inform you that you should no longer rely upon the class action against hiring discrimination known as Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation because that class has been decertified. As a result, the Notice tells you that you must now file your own EEOC Charge if you believe you have a valid claim of race discrimination in hiring against the Transportation Department (formerly known as the Highway Department), or against the Alabama Personnel Department or both.
2. What am I required to do if I believe I was not hired by the Transportation Department because of my race and want to pursue a claim for such racial discrimination?
You must file an EEOC Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of January 6, 2016 or the date you received or read the Notice from the Court, whichever is later. To be safe, you should treat 180 days from January 6, 2016 as your deadline.
3. What is the time period for which an EEOC Charge can be filed against racial discrimination in hiring?
You may file such an EEOC Charge for racial discrimination in hiring for any Transportation Department jobs you applied for and did not receive since May 21, 1979. This is explained more fully in the Court’s Notice that is attached here. You are also eligible to file such an EEOC Charge if you did not apply for a job that you wanted but would have done so in the absence of a history of racial discrimination by the Transportation and/or Personnel departments.
4. Will the attorneys who represented the hiring class in the Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation case be available to help me draft an EEOC Charge?
Yes if you applied or would have applied for an engineering job higher than the engineering assistant jobs, but not for non-engineering jobs and engineering assistant jobs because of the large number of applicants involved. It is impossible for one law firm to provide individual help in drafting EEOC Charges to such a large number of applicants. The civil engineering jobs also have more complicated issues that require a knowledgeable attorney to draft an adequate EEOC Charge. This FAQ provides sufficient information to assist in drafting an EEOC Charge for non-engineering jobs.
5. If I applied for an engineering job higher than the engineering assistant jobs, how do I obtain assistance from the law firm who has been representing the hiring class in the Reynolds case?
Send an email stating your name, social security number, street address, e-mail address, telephone number and the name of the engineering job you applied to the following email address stating what engineering job you applied for: email@example.com. Send a letter if you don’t have email.
6. What is an EEOC Charge?
An EEOC Charge is a standardized form of the federal agency that is responsible for investigating claims against racial discrimination in employment opportunities. A copy of such form is located here. You can also obtain the same form from the offices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission located at the following offices in Alabama:
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Ridge Park Place, Suite 2000
1130 22nd Street South
Birmingham, Alabama 35205
Mobile, Alabama Office
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
63 South Royal Street
Mobile, Alabama 36602
Fax: 1-251-690-2581Q: How do I file an EEOC Charge?
7. How do I file an EEOC Charge?
Once you obtain the EEOC Charge form from this website or from the EEOC itself, fill-out the information requested on the form, sign it and mail or hand deliver the form to the EEOC at one of the addresses listed above.
Instructions for filing a charge at the Birmingham office are found at http://www.eeoc.gov/field/birmingham/charge.cfm.
Instructions for filing a charge at the Mobile office are found at http://www.eeoc.gov/field/mobile/charge.cfm.
8. Can I find information from the EEOC on my computer?
Yes. The EEOC’s Birmingham office may be reached at: http://www.eeoc.gov/field/birmingham/index.cfm. The EEOC’s Mobile office may be reached at: http://www.eeoc.gov/field/mobile/index.cfm.
9. Where can I learn what the Notice from the Court says?
It is included here and was published on January 6, 2016 in the following newspapers:
Mobile Press Register
10. Who is eligible to file an EEOC Charge?
You are eligible to file an EEOC Charge if you are an African-American who applied with the Alabama Personnel Department for a job with the Alabama Transportation Department or Highway Department in the absence of racial discrimination between May 21, 1979 and 2015 AND believe that racial discrimination may have adversely affected your chance of being hired. You are also eligible to file such an EEOC Charge if you did not apply for a job that you wanted but would have done so in the absence of a history of racial discrimination by the Transportation and/or Personnel departments.
11. If I was eventually hired by the Transportation Department or another state agency, am I still eligible to file an EEOC Charge?
Yes. You may file an EEOC Charge for the delay in your hiring or for not hiring you into another job besides the one you sought or really wanted. As with any other hiring discrimination claim, you would have to prove that your race played a role in such delay, or in your being hired for a job other than the one you sought or wanted.
12. What resources or assistance will I have available if I file an EEOC Charge?
The EEOC can request or subpoena documents and data from the Transportation and Personnel departments, as well as require them to file an answer to your claim and other information. You would also have the advice and assistance of an attorney if you hire one.
13. What will I be awarded if it is determined that I was not hired because of my race?
You could be awarded one or more of the following remedies: backpay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and placement into the job you sought with retroactive pension, seniority, promotions and other benefits necessary to put you in the same status you would have enjoyed if race had not been a factor. Your attorney’s fees and expenses could also be reimbursed.
14. What should my EEOC Charge state if I believe that I was not hired because of my race or that my race adversely affected my chance of being hired?
You should state whatever facts that cause you to believe that your race affected your chance of being hired. At a minimum you would probably want to state whether you applied, how you were qualified and that you were not selected for the job you sought or wanted. It also helps to state any other facts you believe to be true. This may include such things as how you ranked on the register, what made you qualified, whether African-Americans had been able to obtain such jobs in significant numbers during the period you applied, and other facts like those addressed in the district court’s decisions and plaintiffs’ Complaints in Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation linked here.
15. Is there anything I can read from the Court records which explains the types of facts and claims addressed by the Court in the case of Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation?
Yes, for engineering jobs the Court’s decision explaining the racial discrimination which occurred in hiring for those jobs is available here. For other jobs, you may want to read the Complaints in the Reynolds case that are linked here.
16.Why does the Notice that I received state that I am “no longer represented by legal counsel in connection with this lawsuit”?
Like all attorneys, the law firm which represented the hiring class before it was decertified cannot commit to represent individuals for whom the law firm knows nothing about the merits of their claims. Nor can it represent individuals who have not requested to be represented by such firm. However, special assistance in drafting an EEOC Charge will be given to applicants for engineering jobs higher than the engineering assistant jobs. See Questions 4 and 5 above.
17. What should I do if I want the law firm who represented the hiring class in the Reynolds case to considerrepresenting me as an individual regarding my EEOC Charge?
If you applied for an engineering job above the engineering assistant jobs, you should e-mail the law firm and state what engineering job you applied for or wanted. If you applied only for non-engineering job, you should mail a copy of your completed and filed EEOC Charge to the attorneys for the hiring class at the following address:
Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher & Goldfarb
The Kress Building
301 North 19th Street
Birmingham, Alabama 35203
However, you should not rely upon or consider such law firm to be your attorney unless it notifies you in writing that you have been accepted as a client. Until then, you are not represented by the law firm of Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher & Goldfarb and should be sure to file your EEOC Charge by your deadline.
18. Will I automatically be contacted or represented by an attorney?
No, do not assume that any attorney will contact you or will act on your behalf unless you have an agreement with a specific attorney to represent you as an individual. You should make sure such agreement is documented in writing or in a contract. Otherwise, you should carefully follow the instructions you were given in the written Notice you received and that are repeated here.
19. If I call the telephone number of the law firm listed in the Court’s Notice, will I be called back or allowed to speak to an attorney?
Not necessarily. More than 29,000 persons were mailed Notice of their right to file a new EEOC Charge, so you should not expect to receive a return phone call or to speak on the telephone with the law firm listed in the Notice. That law firm has provided answers in this set of frequently asked questions as an alternative. If you still have a question after reading these questions and answers on the website, you will need to write it down and mail or e-mail it to the law firm’s address shown in the Notice you received or read in the newspaper To be safe, you should not wait upon or expect to receive an answer to your question before the deadline for filing an EEOC Charge.
20. What should I do if I want some other law firm or attorney to represent me?
You should contact such attorneys or law firm right away so that they can decide whether they are willing to represent you.
21. Do I need an attorney to file an EEOC Charge?
No, but you probably would be wise to seek the assistance or advice of an attorney if one is available and willing to take your case.
22. What kind of hiring claims can be presented or included in an EEOC Charge?
You may file a claim of intentional racial discrimination in hiring and/or a claim for unintentional racial discrimination in hiring which is known as a “disparate impact” claim.
23. The Notice I received states that I may “choose to pursue an individual hiring discrimination lawsuit against one or more of the Departments under an appropriate theory of law.” What is an “appropriate theory of law”?
Appropriate theories of law include claims of intentional disparate treatment in hiring and unintentional disparate impact in use of hiring procedures or criteria that adversely affect African-Americans more heavily than non-African Americans.
24. What must I do to prove my claim if I file an EEOC Charge for hiring discrimination against the Alabama Transportation Department and/or the State Personnel Department?
To establish intentional discrimination, you must at least prove that you applied or would have applied for hiring in the absence of racial discrimination, that you were qualified for the job you sought or was interested in, that you were not hired and that the defendants continued to look for or hire persons of your same or similar general qualifications. To establish a disparate impact claim, you would not have to prove intentional discrimination, but would have to prove that the hiring procedures or criteria used by the defendants adversely impacted African-Americans more heavily than non-African Americans.
25. Has a court or anyone else determined that I have a valid claim?
No. The EEOC will investigate your claim. It may or may not agree with you that race discrimination played a role in your not being hired. If you disagree with the EEOC, you have a right to request a Right-To-Sue letter and take your claim to federal court.
26. Can the EEOC require the Transportation Department to hire me or pay me backpay?
The EEOC can investigate Charges and mediate settlement, but cannot by itself order the Transportation or Personnel departments to hire someone or to pay damages or backpay. The EEOC must seek such relief from a federal court unless a settlement is agreed to by you and the Transportation or Personnel departments.
27. What are the expenses I might incur if I file an EEOC Charge?
There are no expenses for filing an EEOC Charge.
28. Will I have to go to Court if I file an EEOC Charge?
You will not have to go to Court if your case is settled or dropped at the EEOC stage. If it is not resolved at the EEOC, you will have to then decide whether you want to take your case to Court based on what you learn from the EEOC proceeding or your attorney.
29. Are hiring discrimination claims limited to the type of claim handled by the EEOC?
No. You also have the right to file a claim of racial discrimination in hiring in federal court pursuant to a separate civil rights statute known as 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. Filing an EEOC Charge does not stop the statute of limitations from running on this type of claim. Only a Complaint filed in court is sufficient to commence this type of hiring discrimination claim. Examples of this type of Complaint are located here.
30.What is my deadline for filing that type of §1981 or §1983 claim?
You should consult an attorney to determine such deadline because it involves difficult questions of law and fact. You would be well advised to do so as soon as possible.
31.What kind of hiring discrimination is the State Personnel Department responsible for?
The Alabama Personnel Department is the agent of the Alabama Transportation Department and is responsible for racial discrimination in hiring for jobs that are subject to the merit system administered by the Personnel Department, including, but not limited to, recruiting, testing, ranking, screening, selecting, appointing, reclassifying applicants or employees, and establishing procedures and criteria used in hiring employees for the Transportation Department.
32. Are there expenses if I take my case to Court?
Yes, the Court charges a filing fee and your attorney may need your assistance in paying for other expenses, such as court reporters for depositions, copying documents, etc. If you win, the defendants will probably have to reimburse you for such expenses, but not if you lose. If you lose your case, you must pay the defendants’ costs.
33. If I did not receive the Notice by mail, am I still eligible to file an EEOC Charge?
Yes. Many eligible class members will receive Notice only though publication in newspapers or by word of mouth. If you are an African-American who applied with the Alabama Personnel Department to be hired for a job with the Alabama Department of Transportation between May 21, 1979 and 2015 and believe you were not hired in whole or in part because of your race, then you are eligible to file an EEOC Charge regardless of whether you received the Notice of such right by mail.
34. Who was sent the Notice by mail?
The Notice was sent to African-Americans who applied to be hired by the Alabama Department of Transportation and who previously filed a claim with the Court indicating that they wished to be included in the class action against hiring discrimination known as Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Education. All other persons were given Notice by publication in newspapers.
35. The Notice I received states that “failure to file an EEOC Charge within 180 days or receiving this Notice may keep [me] from filing a Title VII lawsuit”, how do I determine the date of that deadline?
You should keep a record of the date you receive the Court’s Notice in the mail, including the envelope and Notice itself. If you did not receive a mailed Notice, you should keep a good record of the date you first saw the Notice in the newspaper or otherwise learned about it.
36. What if I was hired by the Alabama Department of Transportation before May 21, 1979?
If you were hired by the Alabama Department of Transportation before May 21, 1979 in the job you were seeking, you do not have a timely claim and should not file an EEOC Charge. The limitations period was suspended only for hiring claims arising after May 21, 1979. However, if you were hired by the Alabama Department of Transportation before May 21, 1979 into a job different than the one you sought or wanted, you may still file an EEOC Charge for the job you sought and were not hired into.
37. Can I file an EEOC Charge for claims other than racial discrimination in hiring, such as promotion discrimination or harassment claims?
No, not unless such discrimination occurred less than 180 days before January 6, 2016.
38. If I am among the original 85 class members who testified at the trial in Reynolds in 1992 and 1997 in the Reynolds case, does the Notice affect me?
The claims of those persons who testified in the original trial in 1992 and 1997 remain pending before Judge Thompson and they do not have to file an EEOC charge or a new lawsuit. If you were on a witness list but did not testify, you must file an EEOC charge or a new lawsuit.
39. Does this Notice affect claims for contempt of the Reynolds Consent Decree?
The Notice does not affect pending claims for Contempt of the Consent Decree. Contempt Claims that have not been dismissed remain pending before Judge Thompson. Contempt claims are for violating the consent decree and are different from hiring claims.
HIRING CLAIMS IN REYNOLDS V. ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
This section of our website is designed to provide information to former members of the hiring class in Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation. The hiring class in Reynolds v. Alabama Department of Transportation included all African-Americans who claim they were denied hiring opportunities with the Alabama Department of Transportation on the basis of race at any time since May 21, 1979.
The information in this website does not apply to persons who claim only that they were denied a promotion. This website is designed only for informational purposes and should not be construed as an agreement by any attorney or law firm to represent you. To protect your rights and interests, you must carefully follow the instructions in the written Notice that you received by mail or newspaper.
The FAQs (frequently asked questions) in the links above provide additional information but it is your responsibility to follow the instructions in the Notice and you must file an EEOC Charge by the 180-day deadline stated in the Notice provided by the Court if you choose to pursue your claim.
ATTORNEYS INVESTIGATING WAGE THEFT IN CAR DEALERSHIPS
If you are a car salesman, paid straight commission, no guaranteed draw or no guarantee of earning weekly minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) for each hour worked during the work week, and there were/are pay periods wherein you did not earn minimum wage based on the number of hours you worked for the week, then you are possibly due monetary damages for each and every weekly violation.
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS THE LILLY LEDBETTER FAIR PAY ACT
“On January 29, 2009, with the new law’s namesake Lilly Ledbetter there to witness, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — legislation to fight pay discrimination and ensure fundamental fairness to American workers.”