ShareThis Page

Pittsburgh Panera Bread franchise owner to proceed with discrimation settlement

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, 12:52 p.m.

A federal judge on Monday told lawyers for both sides to move ahead with advertising a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit claiming that Pittsburgh-area Panera Bread franchises discriminated against black employees.

Covelli Enterprises of Warren, Ohio, operates franchises in Pittsburgh as well as in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Florida.

Guy M. Vines, a Castle Shannon man who filed the lawsuit, claims the company refused to promote him and other black employees and tried to relegate them to kitchen work because the company owner, Sam Covelli, didn't like minorities working in the dining areas of his restaurants.

Sam Cordes, Vines' attorney, told U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster that the number of people affected by the settlement is about 200 to 300 current and former employees. The company will advertise the settlement in newspapers in all five states to reach the former employees, he said.

The company denies any liability in the settlement, but has agreed to pay current and former black employees the difference in wages they would have made if they had been promoted after their first full year of employment. That amounts to 70 cents an hour for every hour they worked after the first year, Cordes said.

The company will pay Vines $10,000 as the class representative who brought the lawsuit and Cordes about $66,000 in legal fees, according to the settlement. A condition of the settlement is that neither side will talk with the media, and Cordes and Brad Funari, the company's lawyer, declined to comment after the hearing.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.