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Aramark Corp. has been hit with a class action racial discrimination suit brought by black service workers who claim they are constantly harassed and unfairly disciplined by their white managers. The suit also alleges that those who complain of the mistreatment are punished with even harsher discipline. The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by attorneys Joel I. Fishbein of Abrahams Loewenstein & Bushman and Stephen A. Whinston, Jonathan Auerbach and Shanon J. Carson of Berger & Montague. Philadelphia-based Aramark is the nation’s largest provider of outsourcing services. In 2000, it posted more than $7 billion in revenue. The company ranks 258th on the Fortune 500 list and is the 23rd-largest employer on the list. The 10 plaintiffs in the suit are employed by Aramark at the Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, where they transport patients, distribute linen, and clean rooms and floors. The suit alleges that the service workers are almost all black and that their white managers harass them through “an oppressive pattern of unfair and unjustified discipline.” Four of the named plaintiffs claim they were fired on the basis of fabricated disciplinary charges. The real reason for the firings, the suit says, is that all four had voiced objections to the racially discriminatory discipline. The suit says Aramark employees in other departments at the hospital, who are mostly white, are not subjected to the unfair discipline. Randolph Robinson, a plaintiff who served as a union shop steward, claims he was targeted after he tried to help other black workers file a grievance over alleged unfair disciplinary action. The suit alleges that Robinson was hit with a three-day suspension without pay and that a white manager referred to Robinson as a “black punk” in the proceedings that led to his suspension. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say Aramark claims in its employee handbook that it does not tolerate harassment in any form. But they contend that the company “took no corrective action of any kind” after it was informed of the alleged harassment of the black service workers at Presbyterian. The suit alleges that Aramark hired several white managers with “discriminatory behaviors and attitudes” and allowed them to “use their positions of power to create and perpetuate racial discrimination and a racially hostile environment.” By refusing to discipline the managers, the suit claims, Aramark put its “corporate stamp of approval on their illegal conduct.” According to the suit, one of the managers, Dorothy Homony, was transferred from the mostly white maintenance department to the mostly black environmental services department, where she was described in a meeting as a “pit bull.” Within her first week in the new post, the suit says, Homony filed unfair disciplinary charges against 35 black workers — a stark contrast, the suit says, to her history of never unfairly disciplining white workers. The 10 plaintiffs seek to represent a class of all black Aramark service workers assigned to Presbyterian. The suit alleges claims under Title VII and Section 1981, as well as a civil rights conspiracy claim against Homony and Chris Hornbecker, another white manager. The case, Barabin v. Aramark Corp., 01-cv-4161, has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois.

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