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A judge in Wayne County, Mich., granted final approval Thursday to a $10.5 million settlement in two discrimination lawsuits filed against Ford Motor Co. by hundreds of current and former employees. In a separate settlement in Virginia, the company agreed to pay at least $145,000 to three women who said they were sexually harassed at work. Thursday’s approval of the multimillion-dollar settlement reached in December ends the class action lawsuits charging that a management evaluation system put in place by former president and CEO Jacques Nasser discriminated against older white employees. “It’s a relief it’s over,” plaintiff John Streeter said. “For a lot of people still working at Ford, it will help heal some of their wounds.” One of the lawsuits had alleged age, race and gender bias, while the other alleged only age discrimination. According to the consent decree, the automaker denied wrongdoing, and charges of race and gender bias were dropped. Before giving his final approval, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Thomas heard objections from four plaintiffs in the class action suits. The objections did not affect the settlement. Each plaintiff named in the lawsuits will receive up to $100,000, minus attorney fees, depending on length of employment and other considerations. The judge’s approval means the settlement is now in effect and plaintiffs can begin to receive money. Claims also have been filed by 436 current or former employees, said plaintiffs’ attorney James Fett. Thirteen people have opted out of the settlement so they can pursue their own litigation, he said. A Ford spokeswoman said Wednesday the automaker expected the approval. Bill Ford Jr., chairman and CEO, had promised to make settlement of the lawsuits a priority after Nasser resigned Oct. 30. Negotiations to reach out-of-court settlements were under way before Nasser’s resignation. Under the evaluation system, known as Performance Management Process, managers received grades of A, B or C. A grade of C could lead to the loss of bonuses, raises or promotions. Two consecutive C’s could lead to dismissal. Managers performing the evaluations were given quotas for meting out each grade level. The plaintiffs claimed a disproportionate number of older white men received C’s. Last July, three classifications replaced the letter grades, and the quotas were eliminated. In the Virgina case, Ford admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of three women who used to work at Ford’s Norfolk plant. They said they were subjected to crude notes and other sexual messages. Ford agreed to pay a total of $145,000 to two of the three, while the third resolved her claim against Ford confidentially, according to a consent decree signed by a federal judge. Ford also must improve training aimed at reducing sexual harassment. Della DiPietro, Ford’s director of manufacturing communications, said Ford has had a zero tolerance policy against harassment for years and was already taking the steps agreed to in the settlement. Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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