Pest Control Company agrees to $2.5 Million Settlement

by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

The settlement, finalized on 7/17/12, included a class of 486 African American job applicants in relation to alleged racially discriminatory hiring practices (Waters v. Cook’s Pest Control [2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99129]). In all, there were 11 charges which, in the words of District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler, of the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, were:

(1) Discouraging job applications by African-Americans by telling callers with a dialect or diction that may indicate they are African-Americans, or African-Americans who apply in person, that there are no jobs available;

(2) Discouraging applications by African-Americans by stating that applications for jobs must be placed on file at every office where employment is sought because African-Americans tend to be less financially able to travel to all offices;

(3) Discouraging job applications from African-Americans by using only non-African-Americans in print and television advertising;

(4) Failing to employ or promote African-Americans into management positions;

(5) Designating race on employment applications;

(6) Staffing application offices with white workers to discourage job applications from African-Americans;

(7) Discouraging African-Americans from applying for jobs by announcing that an algebra, geometry, and math test is required;

(8) Using "good old boy," "word of mouth," or "tap on the shoulder" systems to avoid recruiting, hiring, or promoting African-Americans;

(9) Using pen and paper math tests as selection criteria, which have a racially disparate impact on African-Americans, and are unnecessary due to the automatic measuring of modern pest control equipment;

(10) Utilizing a cut-score on screening tests; and

(11) Avoiding hiring African-Americans by using an overall system of subjective selection criteria.

The settlement class includes all African Americans who applied for work at any of Cook’s locations from March 1, 2005 through January 27, 2012. The award includes

$875,000 in attorneys' fees and $53,832 in expenses to class counsel. Additionally, among the class members, Waters, the named plaintiff, will receive an amount of 1.5 times the amount paid to other class members. Under the terms of the consent decree, fees and expenses to class counsel and the award to Waters will be paid in an installment of 1.5 million due 30 days from the date of the decree, with the balance due by the end of January 2013.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Cook’s agrees to the following:

• Establishment of objective, facially neutral hiring criteria for filling sales, pest control technician, and termite technician positions;

• Making hiring decisions at each facility without regard to race;

• Issuing a statement to all employees affirming the company's anti-discrimination policy and describing the reporting process for employees who believe that the policy has been violated;

• Instituting periodic training for management, supervisory, and other hiring personnel; and

• Implementing mutually agreed-upon recordkeeping procedures for tracking at each facility applicant flow data by race, positions filled by race, and the reasons for the selection or rejection of each applicant for the covered positions.

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