- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle a race-discrimination lawsuit filed by 120 black scientists and engineers, the space agency announced yesterday.
The non-management scientists and engineers will also get promotions they said they were denied under discriminatory personnel policies dating to 1991.
"The claim was not for harassment or for hostile environment," said Maia Caplan, lead attorney for the scientists and engineers. "It's more a case of failure to promote in a systemic way. There was a shortfall in promotions between African Americans and non-African Americans."
In one case, a black NASA scientist said he had been promoted once since 1962, from a GS-12 to GS-13, which is part of the federal government's rating scale for pay and job status.
As part of the agreement, NASA does not admit wrongdoing.
"I'm satisfied with this settlement, and I want to thank the individuals who raised these issues," said A.V. Diaz, Goddard Space Flight Center director. "Their efforts focused management's attention on these matters."
The lawsuit was filed with the Baltimore district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1993, but was bogged down in litigation.
The breakthrough came after the EEOC's decision in December 2000 to consolidate all the claims of the black scientists and engineers into one class-action lawsuit. In a class-action suit, the interests of everyone participating are represented by one lawsuit.
The EEOC's decision to consolidate the claims "brings with it a higher degree of response from defendants," Mrs. Caplan said. Her firm, Washington-based Kator, Parks and Weiser, will receive $928,819 of the $3.75 million settlement.
In February 2001, NASA and the black employees agreed to mediate the dispute through the private mediation company ADR Associates. A settlement was reached Feb. 25, 2002. The parties received notice Friday of an EEOC administrative-law judge's approval.
NASA agreed to hire an independent personnel-policy consulting firm to revise promotions procedures at the Goddard Space Flight Center, determine which employees should be given retroactive promotions and develop an alternative dispute-resolution method. The consulting and legal fees are expected to raise NASA's costs for the settlement to $4.5 million.
About 50 of the 120 scientists and engineers involved in the lawsuit still work at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
The settlement awaits the EEOC's final approval, which is expected after a hearing scheduled July 8 to ensure the agreement is fair.


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