Debevoise Recovers Millions for Pro Bono Clients

23 July 2015

On July 21, 2015, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York signed an order approving a back pay settlement in the long-standing Local 28 pro bono case.‎ Debevoise & Plimpton LLP represents a class of black and Hispanic sheet metal workers in litigation against their union arising from a history of racial and ethnic discrimination and contempt of court orders. The case was originally filed in 1971 as a government enforcement action. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the City of New York continue as plaintiffs in the case. Debevoise and the firm’s co-counsel at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law intervened in the case in 2003 on behalf of the aggrieved members and moved for the case to be certified as a class action.

After an intense period of litigation, including‎ handling approximately 50 depositions and a successful contempt trial against Local 28, the parties began settlement negotiations regarding back pay compensation for past losses of work hours due to Local 28's discriminatory practices and failure to comply with court orders. An initial settlement of $6.2 million was approved and distributed in 2008, covering losses from 1984 to 1991.

The current settlement‎ includes an initial fund of approximately $4.2 million for 394 class members, covering losses for the years 1991 to 2006. There will then be annual payments for five years linked to the number of hours worked by Local 28's members. Assuming that work hours remain consistent with what they have been in the recent past, the total settlement fund is estimated to be approximately $12.7 million at the end of the five-year period.

Debevoise’s Local 28 team includes counsel Wendy B. Reilly and associates Justin Horton, Miheer Mhatre, Tricia Bozyk Sherno and Nicholas C. Tompkins, with supervision by partners Jyotin Hamid and Edwin G. Schallert.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.