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Former Donnelley Employees Sue Company, Allege Race Discrimination

November 27, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ The nation’s largest commercial printer expressed outrage Tuesday over a lawsuit accusing it of laying off hundreds of black workers while giving less-experienced white employees jobs at other plants.

The lawsuit against R.R. Donnelley and Sons Co. accuses the Chicago company of ``intentional and outrageous race discrimination″ and seeks $500 million in damages.

Candace Gorman, a lawyer representing 22 workers in the federal complaint filed Monday, said more than 500 Donnelley employees were victims of racial discrimination when the company closed a plant on Chicago’s South Side.

``We believe that Donnelley did this on purpose,″ she said.

Donnelley responded with a statement saying it was ``outraged at the inflammatory accusations and characterization.″

In January 1993, Donnelley announced plans to shut down the 65-year-old plant, lay off about 660 workers and relocate production to other facilities. The closing was caused by Sears, Roebuck and Co.’s decision to discontinue most of its catalogs, which the plant had printed.

The lawsuit contends Donnelley laid off all but seven of the 575 black employees at the plant but transferred about 130 of the plant’s 400 white workers, mainly men, to other facilities.

In many cases, the laid-off black workers had more tenure than the retained white workers, according to the lawsuit. ``In fact, some of my clients had to go to facilities to help train these younger employees in how to work the machinery,″ Gorman said.

Donnelley spokesman William Lowe said the company could not immediately provide a racial breakdown of employees laid off or transferred when the plant closed. The company began researching the case after the suit was filed, he said.

``We take these allegations seriously and want to respond accurately,″ he said.

Donnelley also faces an age-discrimination lawsuit filed last year, involving the same plant shutdown. That suit contends many older workers were dismissed in favor of younger employees.

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