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Ford Motor Co. will guarantee black employees access to an apprenticeship training program under the settlement of a civil rights complaint approved by a federal judge. U.S. District Court Judge S. Arthur Spiegel granted preliminary approval to the class action settlement in February. He held a fairness hearing June 1 and formalized the deal with the automaker in an order issued Wednesday. The lawsuit began with complaints in 1998 by employees at Ford plants in Ohio suburbs Sharonville and Batavia, east of Cincinnati. It alleged discrimination against black employees who took an application test for the apprenticeship training program on or after Jan. 1, 1997, and were not chosen. The program allows unskilled laborers to learn skills for higher-paying jobs, such as electrician or millwright, that can result in better job security and improved opportunities for promotion, plaintiffs said. Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford, which denied any liability or discrimination, supported the settlement and agreed to set aside 279 positions in the program for blacks and to pay $2,400 apiece to about 3,400 current and former Ford workers. Spiegel noted in his ruling that the settlement benefited the public interest, Ford workers and the company by heading off lengthy and expensive litigation. It creates a new selection program to be monitored by an industrial psychologist with expertise in workplace and personnel issues. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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