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Iowa hospital close to finalizing $2M bias lawsuit

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) -- A Waterloo hospital is close to finalizing a $2 million class-action lawsuit that compensates African-Americans who say they were denied jobs and promotions because of their race.

Allen Hospital will pay 35 individuals a total of about $1 million under the settlement made public more than a year ago. But a claims process involving 69 people needed to be completed before the settlement could become finalized.

The settlement will include $667,000 for attorney fees and about $10,000 for administrative expenses. The rest will be used for nonprofit organizations that primarily serve African Americans in Waterloo.

Attorneys for both sides appeared at a Monday hearing in Black Hawk County District Court to discuss the joint motion to finalize the settlement. Judge Todd Geer said he'll make a decision soon on the terms.

Jim Waterbury, a spokesman for the hospital, said a great deal of work went into the settlement.

"We want the community to know what we've done, and we want them to know we made good on our promise," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by Robyn Meeks, a nurse who said she was turned down for job openings at the hospital. Meeks' attorney, Thomas Duff, applauded the efforts by both sides to come to an agreement.

"The parties really cooperated to make the process go smoothly and easily," he said.

Duff also applauded policy changes at the hospital, including an updated zero tolerance policy, "which will hopefully deter any litigation like this," he said.

Of the 69 individuals who filed claims, 34 were denied based on numerous factors, such as whether they applied for a position that was under the review period of November 2008 to January 2012, or whether someone more qualified applied for the position.

Three individuals contested their denied claims, but they failed to show up to Monday's court hearing. Geer said he'll review those claims.