A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a settlement in which Ford Motor Co. would guarantee black employees access to an apprenticeship training program they say they were illegally barred from in the automaker’s factories.

Ford says it did nothing wrong in administering the program at its plants nationwide. But the company proposes to end the workers’ lawsuit by setting aside 279 positions in the program for blacks and paying $2,400 apiece to as many as 3,400 current and former Ford workers who could be eligible for the settlement.