Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. is among the nation’s most successful firms in both prosecuting and defending class actions. Few forms of legal action are as potentially powerful a means of leveling the playing field for those suing, or as potentially difficult for those being sued, as class actions. A class action is sometimes the most promising way, and sometimes the only economically viable way, to remedy widespread or systemic injustices. Because of the risk, the expense, and the legal complexity, relatively few firms are willing or able to prosecute class actions. Despite the complexity of these cases, we keep our costs down by staffing matters carefully and structuring fee arrangements that meet the objectives of our clients.
On the plaintiffs’ side, we have been involved in class actions on behalf of minorities, women, workers, consumers, investors, students, teachers, tenants, property owners, and voters – among others. We have used class actions to defeat racial, national origin and gender discrimination in workplace policies and practices, to curb politically-motivated surveillance and harassment by national and local governments, to curb law enforcement abuses, to ensure educational opportunities for students of all races, to ban the continued use of punch-card ballots in Illinois, to fight fraud in financial markets, to enforce wage and hour laws, and to oppose housing discrimination.
At the same time, and in large part as a result of our reputation for successfully prosecuting class actions, we are also hired to defend clients facing class actions. With equal means, tenacity, and experience, we have defended (and defeated) class claims on behalf of both private and governmental entities.
Jones v. Walgreen Co. Represented a nationwide class of women retail store management employees in a Title VII class action lawsuit against the nation’s largest drugstore chain. The settlement provided for monetary relief of $17 million, as well as an injunction requiring both objective criteria for pay and promotions decisions involving female managerial employees and outside review of gender equity compliance efforts.
Lewis v. City of Chicago. In this ongoing class action, HSPRD represents more than 6,000 African Americans who took and passed a hiring exam for entry-level firefighter positions in the Chicago Fire Department and then were wrongfully denied the opportunity to be considered for employment by the City. The trial court ruled that the City’s method of hiring bore no demonstrable relationship to the relative skills or abilities of candidates for the position and that it disproportionately excluded African Americans, making it more than 5 times more likely that a white candidate rather than an African American would be hired. The City’s practice was, as the trial court called it, “a manifest violation of Title VII,” our nation’s core federal guarantee of equal employment opportunity. We have prevailed not only at trial but also in the federal Court of Appeals and before the US Supreme Court, which issued a unanimous opinion in favor of our clients. In May 2011, the Court of Appeals directed the trial court to enter a remedial order, which will result in the hiring of 111 class members as Chicago Firefighters and payment of $78.5 million in back pay and pension contributions.
Bell v. Woodward Governor Co. Represented minority employees in a Title VII class action alleging race and national origin discrimination by a large manufacturing employer, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement. The settlement also provided comprehensive injunctive relief, including appointment of a third-party monitor and retention of workplace industrial organizational experts to create and implement non-discriminatory, job-related best practices for compensation and promotional decisions going forward.
FAIR CREDITING REPORT ACT
Joshaway v. First Student and Hunter v. First Transit. National class actions against the two subsidiaries of the largest public transportation provider in the United States, challenging the use of criminal background checks on employees and applicants in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The $5.9 million settlement is the largest FCRA settlement resolving employment-related claims in U.S. history and requires corporate policies in full compliance with the law.
ACLU v. City of Chicago. A class action challenge to political surveillance and harassment by local and national law enforcement agencies. The lawsuit resulted in a consent decree with the broadest restrictions in the country on government interference with the First Amendment activities of non-governmental, community, and public interest organizations.
Hispanics United v. Village of Addison. A class action lawsuit brought under the Fair Housing Act on behalf of the owners and residents of two predominantly Mexican communities in Addison, Illinois. The settlement, on the eve of trial, prevented the planned destruction of those communities by the Village in the guise of “urban renewal.” The result was the largest Fair Housing law settlement in the nation’s history, and one that effectively changed the use of tax increment financing projects to prevent their abuse as redevelopment pretexts for the displacement and destruction of immigrant communities.
PROTECTION OF OTHER WORKER RIGHTS
Ramirez-Cruz v. United States. This was a class action filed by HSPRD against the Mexican government and three Mexican national banks on behalf of thousands of Mexican workers (braceros), who worked in the U.S. as contract laborers during World War II, pursuant to diplomatic agreements between the U.S. and Mexico. HSPRD led a team of lawyers from law firms in 5 cities seeking to recover unpaid wages withheld between 1942-1946. The historic settlement not only provided compensation to our clients, but was also the catalyst for reparations programs that made additional compensation available to many more thousands of braceros who worked in the program between 1947-1962. The presiding federal judge commended HSPRD for their persistence and accomplishment, stating: “I want to tell you I’ve never seen such litigation in 11 years on the bench that was more difficult than this one. It was enormously challenging…I actually expected, to tell you the truth, at some point that the plaintiffs would just give up because it was so hard, but they never did….And, in fact, they achieved a settlement of the case, which I find remarkable under all of these circumstances.”
People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education. Trial and liability determination of a class action school desegregation case. The court’s ruling included the most detailed findings in the history of school desegregation litigation. The remedial order entered following the determination of liability provided for the effective integration of African American and Latino students in the second largest public school district in Illinois, as well as tens of millions of dollars of new school construction in minority neighborhoods.
del Valle v. McGuffage. Represented Latino and African-American voters in Illinois in a class action against seven local election jurisdictions and the Illinois State Board of Election Commissioners in which HSPRD challenged the use of flawed systems of recording and counting votes. The use of these voting systems had consistently resulted in disproportionately high error rates and undercounting of votes, particularly in predominantly minority voting districts. The settlement in the case led to elimination of punch-card ballots and optical-scan voting systems, which had failed to provide error notification throughout Illinois.
In re Mexico Money Transfer Litigation. This was consolidated litigation in which nationwide classes, represented by HSPRD, brought claims against the three largest money transfer companies in the United States. The suits alleged fraud by each company through their concealment of the spread between the currency-conversion fees they charged customers and their much lower actual transaction costs. The cases settled on terms that mandated transparency and facilitated price competition in exchange rates used by the money transfer industry and provided benefits worth more than $400 million to the classes of most Mexican immigrant workers, as well as $4.5 million in grants to non-governmental organizations all over the United States to serve the needs of the Mexican migrant community.
Martin v. Heinold Commodities, Inc. Represented a plaintiff investor class in a suit against a commodities brokerage firm for breach of fiduciary duty and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act; $3.5 million settlement.
In re Federal Bank and Trust Company. A class action challenge to international securities fraud perpetrated by organized crime entities in Canada, the United States and the Bahamas. The lawsuit resulted in a record RICO recovery.