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
MVP operates staffing offices in 38 states, according to its
website, including four offices in Illinois.
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.
“MVP instructed its Dispatchers and Onsite Representatives
to refrain from referring African-American laborers to assignments at many of
its client companies,” the lawsuit alleged.
They also accused MVP and its client companies of creating
and maintaining “a system to ensure the African-American laborers could be
To satisfy the demand from client employers for Hispanic
temporary workers, the lawsuit said MVP has sent buses and other vehicles to
predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods to recruit and transport potential
workers. But no such recruitment and transportation efforts have been aimed at
African Americans or in predominantly African American neighborhoods, the
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
The workers are represented in the action by lawyers Christopher
J. Williams and Alvar Ayala, of the Workers’ Law Office P.C., of Chicago, and
lawyers Joseph M. Sellers, Shaylyn Cochran, Miriam R. Nemeth of the firm of
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, of Washington, D.C.
The MVP lawsuit marked
the second such discrimination class action brought this fall by Workers’ Law
Office addressing the same issues.
In October, the law firm filed suit on behalf of a group of
African American workers who accused Gurnee-based Quality Labor Services LLC
and Highland Baking Co., of Northbrook, of also discriminating African American
temp workers in favor of similar Hispanic workers.
They also had sought to expand the lawsuit to include other
African American temp laborers who had been passed over for job assignments by
QLS and Highland since October 2012.