12/26/2012 04:15 pm ET

Sam Covelli, Panera Franchisee, Settles Lawsuit Alleging He Segregated Black Workers

The owner of several western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio Panera restaurants is paying for allegedly discriminating against African-American workers.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster in Pittsburgh has approved a settlement that was formed in July in which Sam Covelli, a Panera franchisee, will pay Guy Vines, a former Panera employee. Vines is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit accusing Covelli of denying African-American workers promotions because of their race and forcing them to work in a racially segregated environment. Covelli will pay $10,000 to Vines and $66,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to settle the allegations, according to a Courthouse News Service report and an earlier Associated Press report on the settlement. He'll also pay out an extra 70 cents per hour to each member of the class for each year after their first year of employment with Covelli and through the date of the settlement, Courthouse News Service reported.

Vines claimed he was forced to work in the kitchen because Covelli didn't want black employees in public view, the Associated Press reported in August. Vines' attorney told the judge at the time that about 200 to 300 black workers could be entitled to money.

Covelli Enterprises and Panera Bread did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Huffington Post.

Vines isn't the first worker to accuse his employer of racial discrimination. In May, two dozen pilots sued United Continental Holdings, the parent of United Airlines, over allegations that they had been passed up for promotions because of their race.

A Manhattan Mercedes-Benz dealership was also sued this year by two plaintiffs who claimed they were subjected to discrimination and later fired for bringing it up.



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