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The Social Security Administration has agreed to pay $7.75 million and take steps to avoid discrimination to settle a lawsuit by 2,200 black male employees, officials for both sides said Tuesday. The agreement was reached Friday after seven years of negotiations and a day before the suit was headed to court proceedings, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyer. “If we hadn’t settled it, it would have been litigated for seven more (years),” said attorney Michael J. Kator. The men sued the agency in 1995, saying they were denied promotions and pay because of their race and sex. The men worked at the agency’s national headquarters, in Woodlawn, Md. The agency has agreed to install a committee of Social Security employees to oversee the promotion process for four years, as well as an employee-elected panel to serve as advocates for workers, the officials said. The $7.75 million was awarded to the plaintiffs to cover damages, attorney fees and other costs, said Gary Gilbert, chief administrative judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Baltimore, who mediated the agreement. Kator said the group plans to devise a formula to determine which plaintiffs were hurt most by the agency’s policies and to divide the money accordingly. The lawsuit covers nearly all the black men who have worked at the agency since the litigation was begun in 1995. About 1,600 black men work there now, agency officials said. The suit also includes employees who have left the agency. Kator said Social Security overlooked black men for promotion and kept them in low-grade jobs despite good performance. Black men were also more likely to be disciplined than other workers, the attorney said. Agency officials have denied the allegations, noting that in 1999 black men made up more than 10 percent of the agency’s most senior executives. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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