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Negotiations aimed at settling a number of age discrimination lawsuits against Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich., have broken off, according to two plaintiffs. At least two class action suits and several individual suits on behalf of current and former managers claim the company’s evaluation system favored younger, so-called “diversity” candidates. Settlement talks with an attorney for several plaintiffs started Thursday, two days after the announcement that chairman William Clay Ford Jr. would replace Jacques Nasser as chief executive officer of the company and that David Murphy was fired as vice president of human resources. The talks broke off Friday, the plaintiffs said. A spokeswoman for Ford and lead company attorney Oliver Mitchell said they had no comment on the negotiations. Lawyers for Ford asked plaintiffs’ attorneys to submit settlement proposals, but as Thursday’s meeting concluded, Mitchell said he was unhappy with the proposals, said Chris Congdon, a manager suing the company. The talks hit another snag, Congdon said, when company lawyers insisted that the automaker would only agree to settle all the lawsuits together. Congdon said Ford lawyers then asked his attorney, James Fett, to persuade his clients in the individual cases to take less money “for the good of the class.” Ford attorneys “actively were coaching plaintiffs’ attorneys trying to persuade them to take less money,” said John Kovacs, a former human resources manager at Ford Credit who is suing the automaker. The plaintiffs say Ford’s Performance Management Process was used unfairly to weed out older white males in favor of women and minorities. Employees were graded A, B, or C. Those receiving a C could lose bonuses and raises, and two consecutive C grades could mean dismissal. The company said in July that it would discontinue the 18-month-old system. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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