Chevron said it has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleges it discriminated against hundreds of women in pay, promotions and assignments.
The proposed settlement must be approved by a Superior Court judge at a Jan. 21 hearing.
The closely-watched sex discrimination suit follows last year’s $2.2 million out-of-court settlement on related sexual harassment claims at Chevron Information Technology Co., or CITC, a San Ramon-based operating unit of Chevron Corp. That settlement - shared by four women computer specialists - was one of the largest in a harassment case against a major corporation.
The class-action discrimination claim involved 777 current and former female CITC employees. The lawsuit claimed that Chevron routinely passed over qualified women for promotions and gave male counterparts salaries as much as $80,000 higher.
A lawyer not involved with the case who is considered an expert in discrimination matters, Brad Seligman, called the proposed settlement a wakeup call to other corporations.
“Chevron is not a pushover defendant,” he said. “It is known for its aggressive defense against claims, and for that company to have been brought to this agreement is a pretty powerful signal.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the women could accept a formula payout based upon their salary level and years of service or go to arbitration. If all of the employees accepted the formula award, Chevron would pay $7.42 million.
Attorneys for both sides would not comment, but Seligman said Chevron may have to pay significantly more if a number of the employees choose arbitration.
“Given the number of class members and the issues in this case, I would expect a significant number of women won’t be satisfied with the minimum amounts,” he said.
The settlement also would provide a $1 million fund from which the women would be paid $5,000, $20,000 or $50,000 for emotional distress, depending on the severity of the claim.
In addition, a consulting firm would review CITC’s employment policies and practices and make recommendations for improvement.
Ellen Bravo, executive director of 9to5, The National Association of Working women, said the settlement was a victory not only for the women, but, “Paired with the Texaco incident, it reminds us that discrimination is alive and well in America’s corporations even in its most blatant forms.”
Texaco is being sued in a $540 million class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 1,500 black workers of the oil company who claim they were denied promotions and advancement opportunities because of their race.
Bravo also noted that just this week, California’s voters passed a ballot proposition that ends affirmative action programs in the state.
The Chevron case is smaller than some other discrimination settlements in California. California’s Lucky Stores Inc. settled a suit covering 14,000 women for $107 million, while Albertson’s paid $29 million to settle a discrimination suit with women and Hispanic workers in California.
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