Allen Hospital settles discrimination lawsuit for $2 million - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Allen Hospital settles discrimination lawsuit for $2 million

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Allen Hospital is settling a class action lawsuit for $2 million. The lawsuit was filed by former Allen employee Robyn Meeks in December 2010. Meeks claims Allen has discriminated against African-Americans by hiring and promoting less experienced white employees.

Meeks was first employed by Allen Hospital in 1997 as a student nurse. She held several positions before resigning in 2003. In November of 2002, Meeks filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that she had been unlawfully denied a position at Allen Hospital on the basis of race.

In 2009, Meeks returned to Waterloo and applied for several positions at Allen Hospital but was not hired for any of the positions. Meeks claims she was labeled as a "troublemaker" for filing a complaint with the EEOC and also claims less qualified white employees were hired for the open positions.

Meeks says she went forward with the suit to help people in similar situations.

"To be able to help others out through my actions and to make sure it wouldn't happen to anyone else again to be in this same situation," said Meeks.

Because this is a class action lawsuit, it includes all former, current, and future African-American applicants who applied for employment or were employed by Allen Hospital and faced discrimination in their working environment, but it is limited to the time between November 25, 2008 and January 17, 2012.

Allen will establish a settlement fund of $2 million. A large chunk of that, $666,600, will go toward legal fees. Meeks will receive reinstatement, backpay, a "reasonable amount for emotional distress" and a payment of $10,000. The remainder of the settlement fund will be used to pay other eligible claimants.

In the settlement, Allen Hospital denies that it ever engaged in a pattern of race discrimination against African-Americans, and the hospital maintains that applicants for employment have at all times had equal employment opportunities. The lawsuit also says Allen Hospital employees have been treated fairly and equally with respect to promotional opportunities, terms and conditions of employment, discipline and discharge. The settlement is described as a compromise to avoid further litigation.

Spokesperson for Allen Hospital, Jim Waterbury said settling was the right thing to do.

"Most importantly I think taking this to trial would really be divisive in the community. I think it would cause hard feelings and that's not something we want to do. We're not here to make things worse, we're here to make things as a hospital to make things better," sad Waterbury.

As for how many other complaints there could possibly be that's up in the air.

"If you look at 14,000 applicants in round number during a three year period and if five percent of those applications were from African-Americans applicants then that would be a potential 700 people who might be eligible to apply," said Waterbury.

Meeks was reinstated at Allen Hospital and has been working there since December 19th.

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