The Fight to End Discrimination

For decades, Crowell & Moring’s robust pro bono program has worked to fight discrimination. We’ve taken on leading companies and organizations so that victims of discriminatory practices can get the relief they deserve and have an opportunity to make things better for the generations ahead. Our lawyers work to provide relief to victims, and, in many cases, they create innovative settlements that require organizations to change policies, conduct training, and help prevent future injustices.

From representing black farmers to residents of Washington, D.C., join us as we look back through some of the most impactful discrimination matters we’re proud to call our own:

Eliminating racial bias at Diamond Cab Company (2000)

Summary: In June 2000, a chronic problem of racial bias in Washington, D.C. made headlines after several complaints from black residents surfaced about difficulty obtaining cab service from Diamond Cab Company. Through a series of test calls, it was established that the company responded to virtually all calls originating in the Northwest and to virtually none when the calls originated in the Southeast region, which has a high minority population.

The firm’s role: Crowell & Moring represented the Equal Rights Center and two African-American residents of Southeast Washington in a lawsuit filed against Diamond Cab Company for discriminating in provision of its services by failing to dispatch cabs for Southeast sector residents.

Resolution: Diamond Cab Company settled the case. As part of the settlement, it agreed to take critical steps to eliminate discriminatory practices, including providing service to all on an equal basis within service areas, providing training sessions for employees, posting complaint procedures, and keeping written records concerning discrimination complaints.

Transforming customer service practices at Cracker Barrel (2004)

Summary: NAACP claimed on behalf of more than 100 African-Americans that Cracker Barrel Restaurants practiced discriminatory treatment against black customers and implemented policies designed to segregate customers, provide inferior service, and refuse service.

The firm’s role: Crowell & Moring served as co-counsel in this major civil rights action, representing the NAACP and 42 individual plaintiffs in litigation against Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, Inc., alleging discriminatory treatment of African-American customers by dozens of Cracker Barrel restaurants across the country.

Resolution: Cracker Barrel settled on September 9, 2004, providing significant injunctive relief and payments for the individual plaintiffs. The consent order required new training programs, an enhanced system to investigate and resolve customer complaints of discrimination, and an outside auditor to oversee implementation of nondiscrimination policies and procedures.

Resolving decades of discrimination for black farmers (2008)

Summary: Almost 10 years after the historic Pigford settlement, the largest civil rights settlement in U.S. history, more than 70,000 black farmers from across the country who had sought to participate in that settlement were excluded because their requests were filed after the deadline. By 2008, Congress had addressed the issue by appropriating limited funds ($100 million) to pay the claims of eligible farmers.

The firm’s role: Crowell & Moring represented the farmers as they advanced claims within the structural and fiscal limitations imposed by Congress. Shortly after the 2008 legislation, 23 complaints had been filed on behalf of approximately 40,000 plaintiffs. Knowing the clients would not benefit from individual adjudications of their claims in court, the firm negotiated a class settlement with the USDA and advocated for additional funding from Congress.

Resolution: The class was certified and the settlement approved, and Congress appropriated an additional $1.25 billion in funding. As a result, approximately 18,000 black farmers received a check in remedy for the discrimination they suffered.

Providing relief for tourists suffering unequal treatment (2011)

Summary: Dating back to the 1980s, Memorial Day Weekend became known as “Black Bike Week” (BBW) in Myrtle Beach, S.C. as the number of African-American bikers and tourists steadily increased. In response to this, an area resort began implementing discriminatory practices and policies at its property during BBW, which were not applied in the preceding week, known as “Harley Week,” when predominately white tourists visited.

The firm’s role: In 2008, Crowell & Moring filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of African-American hotel guests that had to abide by discriminatory regulations, rates, and rules during BBW at the Myrtle Beach resort.

Resolution: The parties finalized a settlement agreement in 2011 that provided injunctive relief and monetary payment to the victims of discrimination.

Securing fair housing for Latino mobile home park tenants (2016)

Summary: Latino residents of a mobile home park in Richmond, Va., faced a barrage of harassing and discriminatory conduct from the park manager, who subjected them to ethnic slurs, threats to “call Immigration,” arbitrary enforcement of park rules against Latino tenants but not white tenants, and destruction of personal property. 

The firm’s role: Crowell & Moring, in partnership with the Legal Aid Justice Center, filed suit in the Eastern District of Virginia against the park owners on behalf of several of their tenants. The suit alleged that the owners violated the federal Fair Housing Act and several Virginia tenant protection statutes, and that these violations created a culture of fear at the mobile home park.

Resolution: After a hard-fought all-day mediation, the park owners agreed to terminate the park manager, hire a new manager who spoke Spanish, offer year-long leases to all tenants, revise certain park rules and regulations, and pay five Latino families a confidential monetary award.