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California Regents Approve $10.6 Million Class Action Settlement in Gender Discrimination
Class Action Against Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Lab to Dramatically Change Procedures, Pay Over $10.6 Million, and Increase Base Pay to Provide Fair Pay and Equal Promotions and Opportunities for Thousands of Female Employees
The Regents of the University of California (the "Regents") voted on November 19, 2003 to approve a settlement agreement that would resolve a class action lawsuit charging that thousands of female employees were denied equal pay and promotional opportunities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (the "Lab"), a national security research facility managed by the Regents for the U.S. Department of Energy. The Regents’ endorsement clears the way for the parties to seek approval of the deal from the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California, where the lawsuit is pending. More than 3,000 female Lab employees are represented by four law firms, including Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky LLP, The Sturdevant Law Firm in San Francisco, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, and Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer.
"This settlement will help ensure fair treatment and equal compensation for all Lab employees," said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Todd Schneider of San Francisco’s Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky LLP. "The employees, the Lab, and our nation will benefit."
Guy Wallace, co-counsel for the Plaintiff class, added "This class action settlement will help redress years of gender discrimination against hard working women employees at the Lab. Those women never got the same equal opportunities that were provided to their male colleagues."
"The proposed class action settlement is a victory for female employees at one of America's top laboratories and for everyone who cares about equal opportunity in the workplace," said James Sturdevant of the Sturdevant Law Firm. "This class action settlement will significantly change the Lab’s compensation and promotion policies so that women who work at the forefront of national security will finally get the equal pay and promotions they deserve."
The class action lawsuit was filed nearly five years ago, on December 23, 1998, charging that female Lab employees in a variety of job categories are paid and promoted less than male employees with comparable education and equal experience. One of the class action lawsuit’s main contentions is that the Lab’s system of making annual salary adjustments based on an employee’s "Relative Value Rank" – a number which supposedly reflects an assessment of the employee’s total contribution to the Lab as compared to other employees – is overly subjective and allows gender stereotyping and biases to influence decisions. The class action lawsuit also alleges that the Lab had documented, but failed to correct, discrimination against women for more than a decade.
"We’ve fought for five long years – some of us even longer – to get the Lab to listen to and address our concerns," said Shirley Jennings, a representative plaintiff and a computer support associate at the Lab. "I’m proud that our efforts have led to reforms that will help end bias against my female colleagues and me. I think this agreement will go a long way toward shattering the glass ceiling for women at the Lab." If the class action settlement agreement is approved, the Lab will dramatically overhaul its performance management system, including its system of Relative Value Ranking (RVR), and its human resource practices.
In addition to these major reforms, the Lab will pay $9.7 million in damages to the class members, pay an additional $80,000 to the seven representative plaintiffs, and increase the base salary of all class members by 1%, with the increase totaling about $850,000 in the first year alone. The Lab will also pay plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys’ fees, with the final figure to be based on actual time worked and expenses incurred.
"This agreement not only compensates victims of past discrimination, it also makes sweeping reforms to help level the playing field for women at the Lab now and in the future," said TLPJ Staff Attorney Victoria Ni, co-counsel in the case. "The Lab’s recognition that equal work deserves equal pay and equal promotional opportunities is long overdue."
The plaintiffs filed suit only after trying for more than two decades to persuade the Lab’s management to recognize and correct pervasive and systemic discrimination against women employees at the Lab.
"Women working at a first-class national laboratory will no longer be treated as second-class citizens," said The TLPJ Foundation’s President Gary Gwilliam of Oakland’s Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer, co-counsel in the case. "The female employees in this case who fought so long for equal opportunity are real heroes to us all."
In addition to Schneider, Wallace , Sturdevant, Ni, and Gwilliam, the plaintiffs’ legal team includes Mark Johnson and Karen Hindin of The Sturdevant Law Firm and TLPJ Executive Director Arthur H. Bryant.