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Sunday 23rd April 2017,

Allen Hospital to settle race bias lawsuit

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Allen Hospital will likely pay about $1 million to 35 employees, former employees or applicants who claimed they were discriminated against based on the color of their skin.

Judge Todd Geer Monday said he would consider the hospital’s settlement plan which includes the approximately $1 million payout, as well as about $667,000 in attorney fees for the plaintiff and $10,000 in administrative expenses. Any remaining money from the $2 million settlement total will be distributed to organizations that benefit African-Americans through a community fund.

Robyn Meeks filed the class-action lawsuit against the hospital in December 2010 after Allen turned her down for a number of openings. Though Allen officials maintain there was no pattern of discrimination, they agreed to settle the suit to rectify isolated incidences.

Steve Sesterhenn, the hospital’s vice president for human resources, and Quentin Hart, the associate director of multicultural affairs at Hawkeye Community College, served as claims administrators for the process. According to their work, about 38,000 people applied for work at Allen Hospital during the review period, from Nov. 25, 2008, to Jan. 17, 2012. From those applications the hospital hired more than 980 employees.

Another 69 said they were discriminated against and filed a claim. Jim Waterbury, a spokesman for the hospital, said 34 of those claims were denied, in part because the position sought was not open during the review period, the job sought was not filled or was filled by a black applicant, the claimant was less qualified than other applicants or had been previously fired for poor performance, or they were unable to work the needed hours or perform the duties of the job.

Waterbury said only three of the decisions were contested, but none of the claimants was in court to challenge the decision. Geer will also have to rule on whether they had legitimate claims.

Thomas Duff, Meeks’ attorney, told Geer that Sesterhenn and Hart “did an outstanding job.”

“Allen has been really great to work with,” Duff said. “They have taken this process very seriously and have made significant strides in the way that they do business.”

As part of the lawsuit Allen updated its zero tolerance policy, created a diversity awareness team and conducted mandatory diversity training for all managers.

“I hope the community looks at it and says we’ve done what we said we would do,” Waterbury said. “We wanted to resolve this, to settle it. We are talking about our friends and our neighbors. We live here. We want this to be done right.”

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