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Cleaning firm settles racial bias suit for $450,000: EEOC


PHILADELPHIA—Fifteen former employees of Matrix L.L.C. will receive $450,000 in settlement of a discrimination and retaliation suit filed against the cleaning company.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in September 2011, accused executives of the Johnson City, N.Y., cleaning company of instructing a white supervisor, Barbara Palermi, to stop hiring black workers for a client in Concordville, Pa.

According to the agency, Ms. Palermi continued hiring black workers based on their qualifications, and later was fired for defying her managers' instructions.

The EEOC also accused Matrix of forcing black workers at the Concordville worksite to sit in the back of the cafeteria during breaks, and ultimately barred them from the cafeteria altogether The company later fired the entire crew, replacing them with all non-black workers, the agency alleged.

The EEOC filed a class action suit on behalf of Ms. Palermi and 14 other former employees after preliminary negotiations failed to produce a resolution. However, the $450,000 settlement was reached Jan. 4, the EEOC said Monday.

“We commend the company for its agreement to carry out the significant equitable relief provided in the consent decree, including providing expansive annual training, which will benefit all company employees,” EEOC Philadelphia district Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. said in a statement.

On top of the monetary settlement with the 15 former employees, Matrix' settlement with the EEOC requires the company to educate its supervisors and managers on labor laws regarding discrimination and retaliation, as well as submit a follow-up report on remedial measures being taken at the Concordville worksite, the agency said.