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In what defense lawyers say is a first, a company investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for discrimination will receive a $5.9 million refund because not enough claimants have qualified to be paid out of a settlement fund. Houston-based Eagle Global Logistics agreed to pay $9 million to settle racial and gender discrimination charges with the EEOC in the spring of 2001. The bulk of the money, $8.5 million, went to establish a settlement fund to pay out bias claims by current and past employees, with another $500,000 used to set up a leadership development program for women and minorities. Eagle v. EEOC, No. H-01-900 (S.D. Texas). But after four years, only $908,000 has been paid out to 203 claimants, prompting the company to look for a refund. “The EEOC predicted 10,000 to 15,000 claims,” said the company’s lawyer, Nancy Patterson of the Houston office of Baker & Hostetler. “There were actually 2,073 and only 203 of them were deemed eligible.” The parties agreed to retain $1.25 million in the settlement fund for future claims or objections to already paid claims. Eagle will also contribute another $1.4 million to the leadership-development program. With interest, the company will take back more than $6 million, Patterson said. The company, which has never admitted wrongdoing, considers the payback a vindication that the EEOC’s charges were unsubstantiated. However, the EEOC stands by its actions. “I think the commission achieved a lot,” said Katharine Kores, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Memphis, Tenn., who handled the litigation phase against the company. “It seems to me that one case of discrimination is too much and here we have 200.” -Dee McAree

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