Using Cy Pres To Transform The Workplace

“I recommend The Institute as a cy pres recipient because of The Institute’s commitment to advancing workers’ rights and to ensuring that workers will have effective legal representation to enforce their rights to a fair and just workplace. The Institute’s work is closely aligned with the underlying purpose of employment class actions, which is to ensure that workers can avail themselves of the protection of our labor laws.”
– Carolyn H. Cottrell, Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns LLP

When it is not possible in class and collective actions to distribute all of the money awarded to the class members or unclaimed funds remain after the case has concluded, the legal doctrine of cy pres is invoked to further the underlying purpose of the lawsuit. Rather than returning the funds back to the wrongdoing defendant, the cy pres doctrine, which means “as nearly as possible,” permits the court or parties by agreement to designate the residual funds to a non-profit charitable organization whose work has a close connection to the claims in the litigation and that advance the public interest.

The National Institute for Workers’ Rights (the Institute) has a strong track record as a cy pres beneficiary and has been awarded nearly $900,000 in cy pres funds from 23 cases since the organization was founded in 2008. The Institute is a compelling potential beneficiary of cy pres awards in employment discrimination, wage and hour, and other cases involving workplace violations.

By designating the Institute for a cy pres award, you too can help ensure that the dream of equality and justice in the American workplace is a reality for all of America’s workers.

The Institute provides free technical assistance on securing and structuring cy pres awards. For more information, please contact

Leah A. Hofkin, Director of Development
(415) 296-7629

Representative Cy Pres Awards

Since 2008, the Institute has received cy pres awards from 23 cases ranging from less than $100 to nearly $225,000. A few examples follow.

Barlow v. PRN Ambulance (2011)
Todd M. Schneider and Carolyn H. Cottrell of Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns, LLP (CA) made this cy pres award of $224,089.95 possible by naming The Institute in the settlement agreement in a wage and hour case in which the employer failed to afford its ambulance crews legally mandated meal and rest periods, and required its employees to pay for their own uniforms in violation of California law.

Gallo, et al. v. Emerald Correctional Management, LLC (2015; 2014)
The Institute received a total of $62,327.47 in cy pres as part of the settlement in a class action overtime wage case brought in Texas state court by David L. Kern of Kern Law Firm and Enrique Chavez of Chavez Law Firm, both of El Paso. The case was originally filed in August 2006 on behalf of a multi-state class of 700 correctional officers who were employed hourly by Emerald, an operator of private prisons. The lawsuit claimed that employees were not paid at all for pre- and post-shift briefings and were paid only in part for time spent transporting prisoners to and from a hospital for medical care. The lawsuit also challenged the employer’s practices of automatically deducting time for meal breaks often not received and improperly editing timesheets. A structured settlement was approved in June 2011. The settlement agreement included The Institute as the primary designated cy pres beneficiary of unclaimed settlement funds.

Martin v. Grange Mutual Insurance Co. (2008)
The insurance policyholders of this 1994 class action suit alleged that they were incorrectly charged for uninsured motorist insurance. Using the doctrine of cy pres, Patrick J. Perotti of Dworken & Bernstein Co., Ltd. (OH) and the Grange Insurance Charitable Fund designated over $14 million of unclaimed settlement funds to 33 local, state, and national nonprofit organizations, the largest cy pres designation in United States history at the time. The Institute received a cy pres award of $222,684.04.

Stanfield, et al. v. First NLC Financial Services (2015; 2008)
This was the first of five cases brought by the attorneys of Nichols Kaster, PLLP, a firm based in Minneapolis with offices in San Francisco, in which The Institute was named as a cy pres beneficiary. Paul J. Lukas and Donald H. Nichols settled this class and collective action case in late 2007 on behalf of loan officers employed by the defendant which had failed (1) to pay the plaintiffs’ overtime compensation; (2) to provide them with accurate itemized wage statements; (3) to give them rest breaks and meal periods in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California Law. The Institute initially was awarded $75,000 from the cy pres fund in 2008. In 2015, The Institute received a second cy pres distribution from the settlement fund. In the firm’s 2015 letter to The Institute, Nichols Kaster partner Matt Helland said, “The Institute serves an important public function in advocating for equality and justice in the American workplace, and is a deserving recipient of these cy pres funds.”

Thornton, et al. v. Amtrak (2011)
Beginning in 1997, Steven Sprenger and Michael Lieder of Sprenger & Lang, PLLC (DC), with co-counsel Susan Huhta of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (DC) and Maia Caplan (DC), represented a class of African-American track workers along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The plaintiffs claimed race discrimination in job assignment, training, overtime, and disciplinary decisions along with the maintenance of a hostile work environment. The case was settled in 2000 for monetary and broad injunctive relief. Several years after the settlement fund was closed and all known unused funds distributed to 501(c)(3) organizations, the claims administrator discovered additional money attributable to the case in the amount of $15,714.08, which was awarded to The Institute.

Velez v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals (2010)
The Institute received court approval as one of seven charitable organizations designated as cy pres recipients in the $152.5 million settlement of a gender discrimination class action brought by David Sanford and his firm, Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP (DC), on behalf of 5,600 female employees of Novartis. The litigation was initiated in 2004 and resulted in a jury verdict of $250 million in punitive damages against Novartis in May 2010 before the settlement, which also included significant non-monetary relief, was reached. The Institute was the beneficiary of a $23,500 cy pres award.


The attorneys who have named the Institute as a cy pres beneficiary in their cases are making a tremendous difference not only to us, but to the lives of the workers we touch. We extend our gratitude to the following attorneys and law firms for using the power of cy pres to transform the American workplace.

Abbey Spanier, LLP
Altshuler Berzon, LLP
Berger & Montague, PC
Blanchard & Walker PLLC
Burr & Smith, LLP
Chavez Law Firm
Cummins & Cummins, LLP
Donati Law Firm, LLP
Dworken & Bernstein Co., Ltd.
Eisenberg & Schnell, LLP
The Franklin Law Firm, LLC
Suzanne Garrow
Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho
Law Offices of Janice Goodman
Heisler, Feldman, & McCormick, PC
Hua Gallai, LLP
Kern Law Firm
McGuinn, Hillsman & Palefsky
Law Offices of Colleen M. McLaughlin
Meizlish & Grayson
Miller O’Brien Jensen, PA
Nichols Kaster, PLLP
Potter Bolaños LLC
Law Office of Thomas Rutledge
Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP
Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns LLP
Law Offices of James M. Sitkin
Sprenger & Lang, PLLC
Thomas & Solomon LLP
The Law Office of Rob Wiley, PC
Woodall Law Offices

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