“I decided a long time ago that discrimination was the issue of our time, and it moved me to act,” observes Robert H. Stroup. “Whether people are struggling to pay the bills or they are economically well off, they can suffer discrimination on any number of grounds. I want to be there to help in those situations.”
Through a 40-year career, Bob has helped protect the civil rights of individuals and groups through significant employment discrimination class actions involving race, gender and national origin. He has helped secure life-changing results for groups ranging from black employees of the New York City Parks Department (Wright v. Stern) to black and Hispanic firefighters in New York (U.S. v. City of New York) to residents of Baltimore’s public housing (Thompson v. HUD).
In Wright v. Stern, Bob represented New York City Parks Department black employees, who were denied equal pay and promotions to supervisory and managerial positions. In 2008, the city agreed to make changes in the Parks Department’s promotion process and to pay a $21 million settlement. “My clients were hard-working folks who weren’t getting ahead, no matter how hard they worked,” says Bob. “Meanwhile, others who weren’t any better qualified were routinely promoted.”
Bob’s work on Thompson v. HUD led to an historic settlement of a case challenging racial segregation in public housing in metropolitan Baltimore. “Public housing in Baltimore City was a trap from which people could never escape for better opportunities. The area was devastated by poverty,” says Bob. He remembers the trial testimony of one inner-city minister who moved to the suburbs because he grew tired of lying on his apartment floor to dodge stray bullets from the street. The Thompson settlement gave public housing residents access to approximately $600 million in vouchers that gave them access to housing outside Baltimore’s blighted areas. “Our clients came to court and said, ‘I never knew what it was like to live near good schools or a better-paying job in the suburbs.’” Bob recalls. “Now, they know.”
Bob’s career trajectory has taken him from the northeast Ohio dairy farm where he spent his boyhood to undergraduate and graduate studies in African-American history and a first career as a history professor. He was inspired to become a lawyer in the early ‘70s when he realized, “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and tell students about social change. I wanted to use the law to effect that change.”
After graduating from law school in 1974, he joined the Atlanta civil rights firm where he had completed a summer fellowship. “Atlanta was a fascinating place to live because of its politics and its incredibly rich black history and culture,” Bob recalls. “The Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s was still very fresh, with new battles to be fought in many areas, including school desegregation and employment,” he says.
After 23 years in Atlanta, including four as a trial judge, Bob relocated to New York in 1997 to join the law firm of Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard. He became Director of the Economic Justice Group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 2000.
Bob came to Levy Ratner in 2008 and became a partner in 2010. In addition to pursuing employment discrimination actions, Bob counsels individuals on employment contracts and separation agreements. He also has represented employees denied wages and overtime pay in class action lawsuits under the Fair Labor Standards Act and in Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) cases where the employer failed to give employees lawful notice of an approaching layoff.
The State Bar of Georgia and the Center for Civil and Human Rights selected him for their “Civil Rights Milestones Award” in 2015, recognizing his contributions to securing justice and equal treatment for all while practicing law in Georgia. Since 2012, Bob has been named a “Super Lawyer” in Labor and Employment Law, and Martindale-Hubbell has given him its highest possible rating -- AV Preeminent -- in both legal ability and ethical standards.
Admitted to practice in New York