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After nearly a decade of litigation before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Veterans Affairs Department has agreed to pay plaintiffs $5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at its the Hunter Holmes McGuire Richmond VA Medical Center. The class consists of about 2,000 African-American employees at the Medical Center who claimed they were discriminated against in the granting of monetary and non-monetary performance awards. In addition to the monetary settlement, the VA agreed to allow employees to self-nominate for the awards in the future.
Will Gunn, General Counsel of the VA, stated that the VA does not tolerate discrimination and are settling because they neglected to disclose required documents during the discovery process. The VA agreed to the settlement, he said, "because of a failure on our part to timely identify and make relevant documents available," not because of any discrimination. "Throughout our defense of this matter, VA found no bias in the administration of the awards program," Gunn said.
Gunn's statements demonstrate the increasingly important role discovery plays in the proper defense of class action allegations. In this case, it seems that because the VA made a mistake in identifying and producing documents, the result is a seven figure settlement worth approximately $2500 per plaintiff. It is important for every member of an organization's legal team -- both inside and outside -- to pay careful attention to the identification and production of documents. Especially in an era where e-discovery has become an indispensable part of litigation, the stakes could not be higher.
This entry was written by Bradley A Sherman