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Six African-American Coca-Cola employees have rejected their shares of the company’s $192.5 million race discrimination settlement and have sued Coke individually. The five women and one man, all of whom work in Coke’s quality assurance division, have filed a race discrimination suit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta containing claims identical to allegations in the class action suit that Coke settled last year. Federal Judge Richard W. Story of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia formally approved a settlement agreement June 7 and most members of the class accepted it. The new case also has been assigned to Story. Story praised the settlement agreement, saying that the class “has obtained a result superior to what could be ordered by the court even after a successful trial establishing liability on every issue.” Story also said that the estimated $38,000 award per class member “is consistent with what could reasonably be expected if the case were fully litigated.” Coke employees who litigate individually face a tough legal battle although they may win substantially larger awards. For Coke, the new suit means it still cannot resolve the allegations of discrimination, despite the settlement that provides monitoring of employment policies. “Looking back at the class action, some people had stronger claims than others,” says Florida attorney F. Shields McManus, a partner at Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson and Sperando, who isrepresenting the six, Orr v. Coca-Cola, No. 1:01-cv-2105 (N.D. Ga., Aug. 8, 2001). “These people are very concerned . … They are unhappy with the way they had been treated at Coke,” McMannus says. “They felt very strongly that they should make their statements individually rather than as part of a class action. We looked it over and agreed with them.” In a statement to the Daily Report, Coke spokesman Ben Deutsch said that although the company takes any employee complaint seriously and intends to “vigorously investigate the specific allegations brought by this lawsuit,” Coke views allegations of corporate race discrimination as “behind us.” “In Judge Story’s ruling approving the settlement, the court stated that ‘the result is consistent with and in some respects exceeds the relief that the class could expect to obtain at trial,’ ” Deutsch wrote. “With such a strong endorsement of the settlement, we view this issue as now behind us, and we are now focused on ensuring that Coca-Cola has the most advanced and diverse workplace in the world,” he said. THIRD SUIT FILED BY GARY The suit — brought by Coke employees Lesmer Morton Orr, Nicole Suddeth, Bonnita Thomas, Velma Thomas, V. Freeston Warner and Diletha Waldon — is the Florida firm’s third race discrimination suit filed against Coke since last year, when Coke first announced the settlement agreement. When Coke first aired the still-incomplete agreement, Story barred Gary’s firm from soliciting would-be class members or taking them on as clients until after he formally approved the settlement. The firm now represents 13 African-American Coke employees. McManus says he anticipates filing a fourth suit on behalf of four more Coke employees within the next 30 days. ‘NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN’ McMannus’ senior partner is Willie E. Gary, who first waded into the class action discrimination suit against Coke last year. Calling himself “the new sheriff in town,” Gary challenged Coke and the plaintiffs’ attorneys — Washington lawyer Cyrus Mehri and the Atlanta firm of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore — to make their best deal because “the road to final resolution is going to have to come through Willie Gary.” Jesse Jackson, the founder and head of the Rainbow Coalition and Operation P.U.S.H. in Chicago, was the first to suggest that Gary — who is his attorney — be invited to join the legal team already in place and help negotiate a settlement. But the original plaintiffs were split on whether Gary should join the legal team as it began negotiating with Coke. That disagreement, as well as the opposition of their attorneys, bitterly and permanently divided the plaintiffs. Gary’s firm also is pursuing discrimination claims on behalf of four plaintiffs who were removed from the original discrimination suit and decided to litigate their claims individually rather than accept Coke’s settlement offer, Abdallah v. Coca-Cola, No. 1:01-CV-1336 (N.D. Ga., May 24, 2001). The four are Coke security guard Gregory A. Clark, former administrative assistant Motisola Abdallah, Wanda Williams and former Coke information systems specialist Ajibola Laosebikan. In addition, a $1.5 billion race discrimination suit that Gary filed on behalf of four female African-American Coke employees the day after Coke first announced the settlement last year also is being litigated in federal court, Goodman v. Coca-Cola, No. 1:00-cv-1774 (N.D. Ga., July 14, 2000). One of those women, former Coke employee Stephanie Fain, dropped out of the suit and accepted her share of the class action settlement earlier this year, McManus says. “We advised her to do that … because of particular facts in her case,” McManus says. After Fain was laid off with about 3,000 other Coke employees in January 2000, she signed a release agreeing not to sue Coke, McManussays. In return, she secured an enhanced severance package. McManus says Coca-Cola should treat the litigation seriously. “First of all, there are 17 people who felt strongly enough about it they wanted to bring an individual lawsuit and give up a settlement that didn’t require them to do anything,” he says. “I don’t care how big a company you are, that 17 is a significant number. There are a lot of people who weren’t real happy with the way things are at Coke and felt this [the class settlement] was somewhat of a papering over ofthe problems,” McManus says. “I’m not making any predictions on the future. I think they should certainly decide to completely resolve their problems, not partially resolve their problems. We fully intend to bring these cases to a complete conclusion unless they start talking to us — which they haven’t indicated any real desire to do.” The most recent suit outlines an alleged pattern of racial discrimination. As part of that pattern, it claims that the six plaintiffs named in the suit were paid less than their white counterparts at Coke and that promotion policies weren’t applied fairly. The suit also alleges that the plaintiffs were hired at lower job grades with lower starting salaries than their white counterparts and that the company’s employee evaluation system “permitted managerial discretion” that led to race discrimination. Coke Chairman and CEO Douglas Daft talked about evaluations last year when he announced the terms of the settlement agreement in a closed meeting of Coke employees. At the time, Daft said Coke was revising part of its evaluation, which included the question, “Does this person fit?” And he blamed Coke’s lack of diversity, in part, on a corporate culture that emphasized an employee’s ability to blend in or “fit” with his or her fellow employees and supervisors more than whether he or she could best perform the job. “Sometimes it’s too easy to promote and fill positions based on a level of comfort,” Daft said at the time. The current suit also alleges that “since at least 1995, Coca-Cola’s senior management and officers, up to and including former CEO Douglas Ivester, have known of companywide discrimination against African-Americans. “This knowledge places full responsibility for the current violations of federal and anti-discrimination law at the highest levels of the company. … Forexample: “Although Douglas Ivester received the Ware Report [written by Carl Ware, Coke's highest-ranking African-American executive] documenting glass walls and other barriers to the advancement of African-Americans at Coca-Cola in 1995, more than six years later, Coca-Cola has failed to fully implement the report’s recommendations.” In addition, “Only after the class action suit was filed in April of 1999, and after word of the Ware Report was made public in the spring of 1999, did Douglas Ivester announce that Coca-Cola was forming a ‘Diversity Council’ co-chaired by Ware to address issues of diversity in the work place,” according to the suit. The suit also alleges that Coca-Cola has built “glass walls” around certain departments to keep African-Americans … from moving up.” It lists numerous examples of instances where the plaintiffs were hired at a lower salary than whites with less education and experience and refused interviews for promotions that subsequently went to whites. Other examples of alleged discrimination include African-American employees who trained whites with less experience and education for higher-paying jobs they were denied. The six plaintiffs are: � Lesmer Morton Orr, who has a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an MBA from Frostburg State University. Originally hired as a temporary employee in 1993, she was hired as a permanent employee in 1998. � Nicole Suddeth, who has a B.S. in microbiology from the University of Florida. She was hired as a temporary employee in the quality assurance division in 1997. Less than four months later, she was hired full time. � Bonnita Thomas, who received a B.S. in biology in 1984 and an M.S. in food science at Alabama A&M University in 1988. She has been a quality assurance technician and is currently a lab technician. � Velma Thomas, who graduated cum laude from Benedict College with a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry in 1985 and is working on her MBA at Troy State University. She began work at Coca-Cola as a lab technician in 1987. Since 1995, she has been a laboratory analyst. � V. Freeston Warner, who has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He began working at Coke through a temporary agency in 1984 and was hired full time as a lab aide thefollowing year. He has been a laboratory analyst since 1995. � Diletha Waldon, who graduated with a B.S. in chemistry from Clark Atlanta University. In 1992, Coca-Cola hired her as a laboratory technician. She has been a laboratory analyst since 1995.

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