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November 20, 2001
Ford Settling Discrimination Suits
Law
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yers for Ford Motor Co. and a group of managers suing the automaker for workplace discrimination have reached a tentative agreement to settle two high-profile class-action lawsuits, sources tell the Detroit News.

The agreement is contingent on the two sides reaching settlement deals on seven individual discrimination lawsuits, the sources told the News, which did not report the terms of the potential deal.

The negotiations were jump-started after Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. replaced Jacques Nasser as chief executive last month. Bill Ford, according to the News, has said the lawsuits bother him personally because he considers Ford employees extended family members.

The lawsuits, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, claim an employee grading policy implemented last year by Nasser discriminated against older workers. One of the class-action suits claimed white males were targeted for poor reviews.

More than 50 current and former Ford managers are named in the lawsuits. Dozens more have agreed to join the suits.

Michael Pitt, a lead attorney for plaintiffs in one of the class-action suits, declined to discuss details of the negotiations. "It's true that settlement discussions have restarted but no settlement has been reached," Pitt told the News.

"There are many issues to resolve before we can announce a settlement," he added.

Delicate negotiations remain to reach agreements on the seven individual lawsuits. One of the cases was filed by John Kovacs, a former human resources manager at Ford who made public internal company documents he says show the company discriminated against white males.

By state law, the newspaper notes, a judge must approve the settlement of class-action lawsuits after conducting a fairness hearing.

Settlement had talks collapsed two weeks ago, prompting plaintiffs' lawyers to release studies of Ford employment data that showed older workers were far more likely to receive poor reviews than their younger counterparts, and males more than twice as likely to receive them as females.

Ford said the studies could be misleading and didn't take into account important variables such as an employee's time in a job, education level and work history.

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