All workers, regardless of their race or national origin, should be treated equally in the workplace. Latino employees at Quietflex Manufacturing Company, a Houston based company that manufactures air conditioning ducts, claimed they were not treated equally. Instead, they were segregated in a department with the harshest work conditions, denied transfers, limited in their opportunities for advancement, and paid at substantially lower rates than non-Latino workers. Other workers held similarly-skilled positions in other departments with more favorable working conditions. The Latino workers asserted they were segregated in the workplace based on their inability to speak English and communicate with the supervisors in other departments.
In 2001, MALDEF filed a Title VII class action lawsuit representing approximately 78 Latino employees of Quietflex. In January 2007, the parties entered into a final Consent Decree that awarded MALDEF’s clients $2.8 million. The company did not admit liability. As part of the Consent Decree, Defendants and Plaintiffs agreed to develop a test that would measure objectively whether prospective applicants to the favored department at the plant could communicate a limited number of basic English phrases necessary for safety and production in that department.
MALDEF subsequently challenged the initial communication test developed by Quietflex, arguing that the test was an English proficiency test, as opposed to the very basic communication test intended under the terms of the Consent Order. In November 2007, MALDEF filed a Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and requested that the Court order Quietflex to create a test that complies with the Consent Decree. The Motion to Enforce is currently pending before the district court and the parties are working towards the development of a final, agreed-upon communication test.
MALDEF is committed to ensuring that workers are not discriminated against on the basis of their race and national origin and not held back by unfair treatment.
MALDEF, Quietflex Manufacturing Company, L.P., Announce Final Approval Of Settlement With Latino Employees On Discrimination Claims
January 23, 2007
HOUSTON, TX — U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal granted final approval today to the settlement of discrimination claims asserted against Quietflex Manufacturing Company, L.P. (“the Company”). Under the terms of the settlement, the Company’s insurer will pay $2.8 million to 78 current and former Latino Company employees. In addition, the Company has agreed to implement policies and practices to advance equal employment opportunity.
The lawsuit was filed in October 2001 when 78 Latino employees, represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense And Educational Fund, Inc. (“MALDEF”), sued the Company, claiming that it discriminated against them based on their national origin in its transfer and compensation policies. The suit alleged that Latinos were denied entry into a department with jobs which were higher-paying and had better working conditions than the departments in which Latinos worked. They further alleged retaliation based on their terminations stemming from a work stoppage in January 2000. All employees were re-hired shortly thereafter. The Company, which produces flexible air conditioning ducts and component products, has denied and continues to deny all of the allegations in the lawsuit.
The settlement covers all outstanding claims. In reaching a settlement, the parties have avoided the inconvenience, cost and inherent uncertainty of trial. As the case has been settled and no trial was held, the Court made no findings about liability.
“Our clients are very pleased with the settlement. The changes in policy to which the company has committed will give Latino employees a fair opportunity to work in the most desirable and highest paid jobs at the Quietflex plant,” said Nina Perales, MALDEF’s Southwest Regional Counsel.
“While we were fully prepared to present this case at trial, and stand by our position that our client has always followed the laws and regulations related to equal opportunity employment, we are very pleased with this result for our client. This settlement is a fair conclusion for all involved.” said Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., trial counsel at Seyfarth Shaw LLP.