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Ford Pays $3.8 Million In
Federal Discrimination Settlement

Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Ford Motor Co. is paying $3.8 million in one of the largest settlements with the Labor Department involving discrimination in hiring women or minorities at seven of the company's plants.

Ford has agreed to compensate women and minority applicants for lost wages for entry-level assembly positions at company plants in Louisville, Ky.; Wayne and Sterling Heights, Mich.; Sandusky, Ohio; Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo.; and Norfolk, Va.

Ford also will hire 100 women and minorities from previous applicants for assembly jobs at the plants, according to the consent decree.

It is the fifth-largest settlement by a company with the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance, which oversees federal contractors for compliance with the government's affirmative action and nondiscrimination requirements, officials said Friday. The department can cancel federal contracts with companies that do not comply.

Labor officials said the agreement also ensured that Ford would hire more women and minorities at all its facilities because Ford agreed to employ them in proportion to the percentage that apply.

"It is significant that the company — on a corporate-wide basis — will change its hiring analysis which will open a pipeline of opportunity to women and minorities who have too long been excluded from good paying jobs on the Ford assembly line," said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

Ford did not admit to any discrimination in the settlement. The company said it wanted to avoid the costs and uncertainties of litigation.

"We want to reestablish a good working relationship with the agency," said Ford spokeswoman Della DiPietro. "We fully share the same goals regarding diversity in the workforce. Prolonged litigation is not in the best interest of our employees or our shareholders or our consumers."

Most of the money — $2 million — is going to qualified female applicants who were not hired at the Kentucky Truck Plant in 1993, shortly after the facility underwent a major expansion.

At the plant, federal officials identified 318 qualified female applicants who were not hired. Women composed 38 percent of qualified applicants, but only about 25 percent of those hired for the assembly jobs, officials said.

DiPietro said a majority of those 318 female applicants subsequently were hired at the plant.

The other Ford plants are: Michigan Truck Plant; Sterling Axle; Sandusky; Kansas City Assembly; St. Louis Assembly; and Norfolk Assembly.

The consent decree goes into effect Saturday, closing a total of 10 discrimination cases involving Ford that federal officials started at various plants and facilities from 1989 to 1998. There was no formal finding of discrimination at the other three facilities.

The largest Labor Department settlement involving allegations of discrimination by a federal contractor was $14 million paid by Harris Bank of Chicago in 1989.

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