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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 28 Discriminated Against Blacks and Hispanics for Years, Suit Says

NEW YORK – A federal court has granted final approval for a $6.2 million partial settlement for black and Hispanic sheet metal workers who suffered discrimination by their union, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The EEOC and the State and City of New York, along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, DC and the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP representing the minority members, had sued Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association in New York City (Local 28) for providing fewer job opportunities to the workers because of their race or national origin for many years. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race and national origin discrimination by labor organizations. The partial settlement was reached through intense negotiations between the plaintiffs and Local 28.

Judge Robert L. Carter of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of the settlement, which would compensate minority members of Local 28 for lost wages for the years 1984 to 1991. The parties have also agreed to significant changes in the union’s job referral system as well as monitoring systems aimed at equalizing members’ access to job opportunities. Litigation of the remaining claims of union members who suffered discrimination after 1991 continues, as do settlement negotiations, in an effort to obtain a prompt and fair resolution of those remaining claims.

“We hope that these developments are an indication that, with the recent change in leadership, the union has decided, after many years of costly litigation, to work with the court and the plaintiffs in obeying the court orders and to begin to resolve the outstanding claims against it,” said Spencer Lewis, the District Director of the EEOC’s New York office.

“We are thrilled that our clients are finally on the path to receive compensation for some of the discrimination they suffered,” said Michael L. Foreman, Director of the Employment Discrimination Project of the Lawyers’ Committee.  “Without the tireless commitment of our co-counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, who have devoted significant time and resources to this pro bono case, this outcome would not have been possible.”

“We are extremely pleased that such a substantial settlement has been preliminarily approved for this set of claims, and we are eager to continue working toward resolution of remaining claims and issues,” said Jyotin Hamid, a partner with Debevoise & Plimpton.

“This is a significant step forward in what has been a decades-long process to end discrimination against black and Hispanic members of Local 28 and restore their lost wages,” said Joshua Rubin, Senior Counsel at the New York City Law Department. “We will continue working to ensure good practices at the union going forward and to help others reclaim their compensation.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

On Feb. 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at

The Lawyers' Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights legal organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar and the pro bono services of law firms, such as Debevoise & Plimpton, in the enforcement of civil rights. Since its inception, the Lawyers’ Committee has worked as a “private attorney general” by vigorously enforcing civil rights laws in the areas of employment, housing, education, voting rights, environmental justice, and community development. The Lawyers’ Committee represents private parties in federal and state courts throughout the United States in lawsuits against private and governmental entities on behalf of those seeking redress for racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination. More information is available at

The New York City Law Department is one of the oldest, largest and most dynamic law offices in the world, ranking among the top three largest law offices in New York City and the top three largest public law offices in the country. Tracing its roots back to the 1600's, the Department has an active caseload of 90,000 matters and transactions in 17 legal divisions. The Corporation Counsel heads the Law Department and acts as legal counsel for the Mayor, elected officials, the City and all its agencies. The Department's 690 attorneys represent the City on a vast array of civil litigation, legislative and legal issues and in the criminal prosecution of juveniles. For more information, please visit

This page was last modified on January 15, 2008.