Jonathan Bilyk, Cook County Record, December 7, 2016
A discrimination suit against a nationwide temp staffing agency marks the second such complaint launched by a Chicago plaintiffs’ employment law firm in recent weeks alleging staffing companies have discriminated against African-American workers in favor of Hispanic laborers.
On Dec. 6, five plaintiffs, identified as Antwoin Hunt, James Zollicoffer, Norman Green, James Lewis and Kevin James, filed suit in Chicago federal court against MVP Staffing, formally known as Personnel Staffing Group LLC, alleging discriminatory hiring practices.
The lawsuit also named as defendants a group of businesses for which Deerfield-based Most Valuable Personnel provided temporary workers. These included Wheeling-based commercial printer Segerdahl Corporation; Mercury Plastics, of Chicago; printer MPS Chicago Inc., which does business as Jet Litho, of Downers Grove; Ari Packaging, of Alsip; Lawrence Foods, of Elk Grove Village; and Chicago-based Blommer Chocolate.
According to the lawsuit, the named plaintiffs had all sought employment through MVP’s Cicero office for at least the last four years, but were on several occasions passed over for job assignments in favor of Hispanic workers, because MVP went along with employer requests to send them Hispanic workers, rather than African Americans.
The lawsuit said MVP and their client employers would routinely “use code words such as ‘guapos’ (translated as ‘pretty boys’ – ones who don’t want to do dirty work) to refer to African Americans and ‘feos’ (translated as ‘dirty ones’), ‘bilingues’ (translated as ‘bilinguals’) or ‘los que escuchan a La Ley’ (translated as ‘people who listen to Spanish radio station La Ley’) to refer to Hispanic laborers” and ensure Hispanic workers, and not African Americans, were assigned to work at the companies.
The lawsuit asked for the certification of plaintiff classes including potentially thousands of African Americans who have been passed over for work through MVP since December 2012.
The lawsuit demanded back pay and attorney fees from MVP and the named defendant employers, as well as an injunction preventing MVP and the employers from continuing their allegedly discriminatory staffing and job placement practices.