- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

DETROIT (AP) Ford Motor Co. agreed yesterday to pay $10.5 million to settle two class-action lawsuits accusing the automaker of discriminating against older, white men in the name of diversity.
Roughly 620 current and former Ford employees could receive some of the money, plaintiffs' attorneys said. Some will get up to $100,000, minus attorney fees, depending on how long they were employed and other factors.
The reverse-discrimination lawsuits claimed that Ford's employee-evaluation system favored so-called "diversity" candidates namely younger women and minorities and that a disproportionate number of older, white men were given low grades, costing them raises or promotions.
In settling, Ford admitted no wrongdoing.
"The company is pleased to have resolved this difficult situation with our employees and is eager to put it behind," spokesman Joe Laymon said.
Plaintiff Craig Toepfer, who retired from Ford in August, said he was satisfied with the settlement but added, "It really doesn't make up for the things that really should have happened for us."
Ford's performance-evaluation system, put into place last year, was used to evaluate about 18,000 managers and supervisors, or about 5 percent of Ford's work force. Employees were graded A, B or C. Those receiving a C could lose bonuses and raises, and two consecutive C's could mean dismissal.
Initially, at least 10 percent of employees were to be graded C, but that was lowered to 5 percent before quotas were eliminated altogether last July.
The plaintiffs claimed that before the grading program, they had received positive evaluations. But under the new system, they said, they got C's while some women and minorities with less experience or inferior work records were rated higher.
The system had been promoted by Jacques Nasser, who resigned under pressure on Oct. 30 as Ford president and chief executive. He was succeeded as chief executive by Chairman William Clay Ford Jr.
Plaintiffs' attorney Glen Lenhoff said Mr. Nasser's departure was a "turning point" in efforts to settle the cases.
Both sides are due in court tomorrow, where a judge is expected to give preliminary approval.

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