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A federal judge has been asked to approve settlement of a lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers union that charges Ford’s procedure for selecting apprentices discriminates against black employees. The complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and attorneys for at least 11 Ford employees charges that since at least Jan. 1, 1997, Ford has engaged in unlawful employment practices at its Sharonville and former Batavia, Ohio facilities. The UAW, which represents employees and participated in a joint apprenticeship committee with Ford, also was named in the complaint. The complaint seeking class action status alleges that Ford selected black employees at a much lower rate than it did white employees for its apprenticeship training program. The complaint charges that the impact of the selection process on black employees “denies them eligibility and admission to the apprenticeship program.” The complaint and the motion requesting preliminary court approval of the settlement agreement were filed Dec. 27 with U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott. The complaint charges that Ford’s process for selecting apprentices violates federal and state civil rights laws and seeks class action status that could affect 3,400 current and former Ford employees nationwide. If the judge approves the settlement, the agreement could cost Ford more than $10 million. The agreement isn’t an admission by Ford or the UAW of any liability or wrongdoing in the case, according to the parties’ motion for court approval. Representatives of Ford, the UAW, the EEOC and attorneys representing the employees negotiated for more than a year before reaching the agreement, according to court documents. Messages seeking comment were left Monday night at the Detroit offices of Ford and the UAW, EEOC regional offices in Cleveland and the office of Nathaniel R. Jones, a Cincinnati attorney representing the employees. Under the proposed agreement, Ford would immediately stop using its procedure for selecting apprentices at Ford facilities in the United States and all parties would agree on an industrial psychologist to serve as an expert in devising a new selection system. Ford also would set aside 279 apprenticeship eligibility positions for class members, and $2,400 would be paid to class members allegedly harmed by the apprenticeship selection procedure. The employees who brought the complaint would each receive $30,000 instead $2,400, according to documents filed in the case. The higher payment is intended to compensate them for their assistance in the case and for release of their individual claims. Ford also would pay $1,100,000 to cover all court costs and attorneys’ fees in the case up to the date of final approval, according to court documents. One year after final approval of the settlement, Ford would pay the settlement class counsel $567,000 for implementing and monitoring the agreement. The settlement class would include all current and former black employees of Ford who took the company’s test for placement as an apprentice at any Ford facility since January 1, 1997 until the date of the court’s preliminary approval of the agreement. Dlott also has been asked to set a hearing in the case before final approval and order that all members of the affected class be notified in writing. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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