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Three pharmacists on Monday joined the list of plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit accusing Walgreen Co. of racial discrimination against black managers. The original lawsuit was filed in East St. Louis, Ill., in June on behalf of 11 black current and former Walgreen workers in seven states. The amended complaint includes three pharmacists, including two no longer with the Deerfield, Ill.-based company. The lawsuit seeks class action status that, if granted, could represent thousands of other blacks who worked at Walgreens in 45 states, attorneys suing the company said. Tiffani Bruce, a Walgreen spokeswoman, said the company has more than 163,000 employees, but does not publicly disclose how many are black. Walgreen has about 16,000 pharmacists. Both plaintiffs’ groups accuse the company of steering black employees to work in stores in areas with mostly black or lower-income customers, using an internal system to categorize stores based on race and income. The lawsuit also alleges that black employees are denied advancement opportunities because the company directs them to its stores with lower profits, sometimes costing them bonuses often tied to store sales and gross profits. “We dispute the allegations,” Bruce said. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination and have a history of promoting diversity. We’ll show that all of our employees have equal opportunity.” The lawsuit, alleging that Walgreen engages in “segregation” of its black workers, seeks unspecified monetary damages and a permanent court order barring Walgreen from using the questioned employment practices. The named plaintiffs in the original lawsuit are from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Texas and Michigan. The amended petition names a current Walgreen pharmacist in Missouri and two former pharmacists — one in Texas, the other in Florida. “In this day and age, you wouldn’t expect to see this kind of segregation in our culture and society,” said Tiffany Klosener, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “I don’t think you’ll find any of them (the plaintiffs) saying that Walgreen is a bad company; they’d just would like or have liked to work with the company with the same treatment as their white counterparts.” Walgreen is the nation’s largest drugstore chain by sales. It has more than 4,800 stores and 2004 sales of $37 billion. Shares of Walgreen rose 11 cents to $47.97 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, near their 52-week high of $48.18. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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