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Georgia Employment Lawsuit Results in $18M Settlement

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Atlanta, GAA Georgia employment lawsuit has resulted in an $18 million settlement for employees who alleged that Mohawk Industries Inc. hired illegal immigrants to keep wages down. This lawsuit could pave the way for more suits alleging violations of Georgia labor laws, especially in situations involving illegal immigrants.

The settlement affects approximately 48,000 current and former Mohawk employees, who alleged they were paid lower wages than employees at other carpet makers in northern Georgia.

According to Coosa Valley News on 4/14/10, the lawsuit was filed after shift manager Norman Carpenter complained to supervisors about the high number of illegal workers at Mohawk. Carpenter alleges that a lawyer for the company threatened to have him fired if he continued to complain.

Carpenter filed his own lawsuit against Mohawk for violating his civil rights as well as whistleblower protection laws. A Supreme Court ruling on August 12, 2009 found unanimously in favor of Carpenter.

This lawsuit was filed on behalf of four plaintiffs: Shirley Williams and Loran Sisson, both of whom have died; Bonnie Jones, who still works for Mohawk; and Gale Pelfrey, who does not work for Mohawk. Lawyers for the employees argued that Mohawk Industries violated federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Acts (RICO) by knowingly seeking and hiring illegal immigrants to keep wages lower.

A lawsuit against meatpacking company IBP Inc. made similar allegations, claiming the meatpacking company violated RICO by hiring illegal immigrants to keep wages lower. That lawsuit, however, was dropped because a Court of Appeals found that the cases did not meet the standard for RICO.

Carpet maker Mohawk Industries did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement. Mohawk agreed to the monetary award and to train employees about employment verification measures required under state and federal law.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit was filed against Allegiance Industries in Atlanta for allegedly firing a female supervisor because of her sex. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit on behalf of Brenda Lowery, who was hired in January 2009 as a cleaning team supervisor. After Lowery was hired, however, the district manager allegedly told her he wanted a male supervisor at her work site. In July, Lowery lost her job and was reportedly again told that male leadership was needed at Lowery's worksite.


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