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A judge has denied a request for court supervision of Ford Motor Co.’s plan to cut up to 5,000 white collar jobs. The request came from attorneys for a group of managers who are suing the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker for age discrimination, alleging they were passed over for promotions or forced out in favor of younger or minority and female candidates. Ford announced in August that it would offer up to 5,000 managers voluntary buyout or early retirement packages. The automaker hopes to reduce its white collar work force of some 50,000 by 10 percent. Michael Pitt, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said court supervision was sought over concern that those being offered separation packages would be the same managers who received a negative score on evaluations. He said he would not appeal the ruling. Any manager who accepts a buyout would not be allowed to subsequently sue the company, Ford attorney Robert Powell said. Wayne County, Mich. Circuit Judge Edward Thomas said Monday that supervision was unnecessary, in part because any employee offered a buyout could consult with an attorney before making a decision. “He made it pretty clear he didn’t want to get involved,” Powell said Tuesday. No offers will be made until mid-October and copies of offers made to managers who are suing Ford will be sent to their attorneys, Powell said. Managers have 45 days to review the offers before making a decision. “Some plaintiffs have expressed an interest in getting an offer,” Powell said. Ford faces lawsuits by two groups of current and former managers who are attempting to have their suits certified as class action, and one individual suit which claims the managers were denied promotions or were terminated because of their age or for being white males. In July, Ford said it would discontinue its 18-month-old system of evaluating about 18,000 managers. Under the process, employees were graded A, B, or C. Those receiving a C could lose bonuses and raises, and two consecutive C grades could mean dismissal. Initially, at least 10 percent of employees were to be graded C, but that later was lowered to 5 percent. Ford president and CEO Jacques Nasser told employees on July 10 that the letter system was being replaced by three designations: top achiever, achiever, and improvement required. He said there would be no fixed percentages for the improvement required group and those receiving that classification would not necessarily lose compensation. The decision would be at the discretion of the employee’s supervisor. The change in system did not result in the withdrawal of any of the lawsuits. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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