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Coca-Cola will pay individual employees from $1,000 to about $150,000 as part of its settlement of a race discrimination suit. The figures are included in a class notice that Coca-Cola Co. mailed to employees this week announcing settlement terms. The notice provides eight examples of how the $82.8 million in cash and stock options set aside for compensatory damages and a back pay fund will be divided among eligible employees. The cash allotments will be based on length of service at Coke, pay level, education, and any wage disparities that exist between them and their white counterparts. U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story approved the notice Tuesday and directed the company to mail it immediately to all African-Americans employed by Coke from April 22, 1995 to June 14, 2000. The remainder of the settlement, which totals $192.5 million, includes more than $20 million in legal fees, an estimated $43.5 million to make pay equity adjustments for African-Americans over the next decade, and $36 million to fund a Diversity Task Force. It also includes a $10 million promotional achievement award fund (to be distributed over the next decade) for African-American executives who are promoted and succeed; it is comparable to a bonus plan that Coke already has in place. Cash payments will be drawn from two funds, a compensatory damages fund and a back pay fund. The damages fund will award an estimated $370.78 to eligible employees for every tenth of a year that each worked at Coke from the beginning of their employment through June 14, 2000, when the settlement was announced. That dollar amount will vary, depending on the number of employees who actually participate. Class members may elect to take some or all of it in 10-year restricted shares of Coca-Cola stock. The cash portion of the $24.1 million back pay fund will be determined by formulas based on education, work experience, tenure and position at Coke. Those formulas were not included in the class notice. But attorneys did include examples that show how much employees should expect. The following are examples provided by the attorneys in the letter mailed this week: An employee with a high school education: � who did salary grade 4 work in a sales function for 21 months can expect about $8,491; � who did salary grade 5 work in finance and accounting for almost 10 years can expect about $48,184; � who did salary grade 9 sales work for six and a-half years can expect about $35,272. An employee with a college degree: � who worked in sales just over six years can expect about $46,377; � who worked in sales for 12.5 years can expect about $80,604; � who worked in finance and accounting for nearly 13 years can expect about $57,443. An employee with a professional degree: � who worked in accounting and finance for 11 years can expect about $73,793; � who worked in finance and accounting for 13 years can expect about $91,361. No one will receive less than $1,000, but there is a cap on damages. The cash award from both funds cannot exceed the lower of two amounts — either $150,000 or three times the class member’s annual base salary. The notice examples do not indicate how much of each back pay award will be issued as 10-year stock options. But attorneys have agreed on a graduated schedule where employees at grade 10 through 18 must accept from 18 percent to 48 percent of their award in options. Employees at grade 19 or more must accept 53 percent of the back pay award in stock options. Options may be exercised at prices ranging from $48.87 to $65.87, according to the individual’s settlement status. Coke’s price on Thursday was $57.12. The notice also does not tell each eligible employee and former employee how much he or she individually will receive. That information will come “in due course,” the notice states. Meanwhile, those eligible to participate in the settlement have until March 19 to let Coke know whether they intend to accept or “opt out” of the settlement class and pursue legal action independently. The number of people who opt out is of particular interest to attorneys who negotiated the settlement on behalf of four former Coke employees and who now represent the class. Florida attorney Willie Gary has made it clear he is waiting in the wings to represent Coke employees unhappy with the current settlement offer.

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