"The price of justice is eternal publicity." Arnold Bennett
Related Class Action Lawsuits
Microsoft Employees File $5 Billion Racism Suit
WASHINGTON — Microsoft Corp. was hit with one of the largest discrimination suits in U.S. history as seven African Americans alleged racism and a ``plantation mentality'' at their workplace.
A group comprising both current and former employees in the company's Washington, D.C., and Redmond, Wash., offices sued Microsoft for $5 billion, alleging that they were repeatedly passed over for promotions, paid less than white employees, and subjected to harassment and retaliation when they complained.
Willie Gary, the Florida lawyer handling the case, said he is seeking class-action status.
``They (Microsoft) have a plantation mentality when it comes to treating African American workers,'' Gary said.
Gary pointed to 1999 government statistics that showed only 2.6 percent of Microsoft's 21,429 employees, and only 1.6 percent of the company's 5,155 managers, were black.
December 13, 2000
A huge victory for the worker
Yesterday Microsoft agreed to pay $97 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in which thousands of temporary workers filed against Microsoft. In class-action lawsuit known as Vizcaino v. Microsoft, workers accused company of improperly denying them benefits.
District Court Judge John C. Coughenour gave the $97 million settlement agreement preliminary approval on December 12, 2000. This settlement includes compensation to class members (permatemp employees), attorneys' fees, and litigation expenses.Larry Spokoiny, one of the eight named plaintiffs, hailed the settlement. Mr. Spokoiny, who worked at Microsoft from May 1989 to September 1990, testing Microsoft Word software. "This is a huge victory for the workers," Mr. Spokoiny said. "Before, they used to do this just to save some cash for themselves. It sounds to me as if they learned something from this lawsuit, and I think many other companies across the nation are going to sit up and take note."
The $97 million settlement that Microsoft will pay is one of the largest ever received by a group of employees in a class-action lawsuit. Workers had sued the company, maintaining that they were actually permanent employees, not temporaries, and therefore deserved the same benefits as regular workers.In recent years, partly in reaction to the lawsuit, Microsoft has taken several major steps to change its employment policies.David Stobaugh, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, estimated that 8,000 to 12,000 former Microsoft permatemp workers would qualify for an award under the settlement."This case has gotten a lot of publicity, and as a result, a lot of employers have decided to change their policies. These employers recognized they shouldn't have people working at their company for a long time who don't get benefits. And for those companies who haven't changed their policies, this settlement sends a message that it could be very expensive not to change.These temp workers at Microsoft, who called themselves "permatemps" because many worked there for more than two years, asserted that the company maintained a fiction that they were temp workers by hiring them through temp agencies to avoid paying them stock options, pensions and health coverage.Mr. Stobaugh said that the awards to individual employees would be paid in cash and would be based in part on how long they worked at Microsoft. That cash payment would be based on the amount of stock they would have been able to buy in the discount stock purchase program if they had been allowed to, and how the value of the stock would have appreciated, assuming the employee sold the stock after a year."Microsoft continues to be a great place to work, and we value everyone who contributes to our products and services," said Deborah Willingham, Microsoft's vice president for human resources. "We are pleased to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both sides and resolves this litigation.""Microsoft is constantly working to ensure that its employment policies make this a great place to work," said Matt Pilla, a company spokesman. "There are ongoing changes, and obviously we factor in when employees have problems with our employment policies."Since Microsoft has more than $20 billion in cash and cash equivalents, company officials said the settlement would have little effect on the company's bottom line. And Mr. Pilla said the settlement would not have a material effect on Microsoft's financial results.
"It is interesting that after years of depriving these employees of their deserved benefits Microsoft officials still say that "Microsoft is a great place to work" said Ken Hamidi, founder and spokesperson of FACE Intel.
"After years of mercilessly abusing, exploiting, and victimizing its employees, Intel's officials also still shamelessly claim that Intel is a great place to work. We all should learn from Microsoft workers, we have to get together and take action in order to win against tyrannical corporations" said Ken Hamidi.
Workers accuse Ford of age bias
Multimillion-dollar suit claims evaluation process is skewed toward promoting youth
* At issue in a class-action workplace discrimination lawsuit filed Tuesday is Ford Motor Co's controversial evaluation system for upper level employees.
* Here's how it works: Ford requires managers to give 10 percent of employees A grades, 85 percent B grades and 5 percent C's.
* Why it's controversial: Those who receive C grades are not eligible for an annual raise or bonus. An employee who receives a C grade two consecutive years can be fired.
Source: The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Nine white-collar workers at Ford Motor Co. filed a multimillion-dollar age discrimination lawsuit against the automaker. The suit was filed Tuesday on behalf of Harold Siegel, 69, Charles Jerzycke, 54, Jane Laird, 53, James Mulligan, 57, Ronald Robertson, 52, Sanaa Taraman, 54, Pamela Tucker, 47, Ron Wojtas, 53, and John Wyrwas, 60, in a Wayne County court. This is the first legal challenge to the company's controversial employee evaluation process.
In addition, another group of salaried Ford employees is expected to file a second class-action age and reverse-discrimination suit against the Dearborn-based company this week in federal district court.
The claims come as some Ford employees complain that President Jacques Nasser is attempting to sweep out older workers. Nasser has said he wants to build a younger, more diverse management team that will embrace new technology and rapid change while better reflecting Ford's customer base.
At issue in both cases is Ford's evaluation policy for its top 18,000 managers and executives, which is similar to the scholastic practice of grading students on a curve.
Under Ford's policy instituted in January 2000, 10 percent of employees receive A grades, 80 percent get B's and 10 percent receive C's. The policy was altered this year so that only 5 percent of employees must receive C grades.
Those who receive C's are not eligible for a raise or bonus and a C grade for two consecutive years is grounds for demotion or termination. Lawyers for the nine employees who filed suit in Wayne Country Circuit Court claim Ford is using the grading scale to systematically weed out older workers. They are asking the court to prohibit further use of the system.
"We believe Ford is using this system to get rid of older workers," said Megan Bonanni, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. "Our hope is to stop this program before anyone else gets hurt."
Ford lawyers had not reviewed the lawsuit late Tuesday.
Ford spokesman Edward Miller said the grading system -- referred to internally as the Performance Management Process -- does not take an employee's age into account.
"It's designed to be fair to everybody," he said. "We want all of our leaders to contribute at higher levels, but the age of a worker shouldn't be a consideration."
Age suits on rise
Age discrimination cases are on the rise in corporate America as large numbers of baby boomers reach age 50 and older, said Eric Matusewitch, an equal employment opportunity specialist for New York City and a well-known workplace discrimination expert.
"Older people are very aware of their rights," he said. "As companies downsize the situation often lends itself to class-action lawsuits."
Later this week, attorney James K. Fett plans to file a separate class-action workplace discrimination lawsuit against Ford on behalf of at least five current employees. Fett will claim that Ford discriminated by age and race.
His clients, all white, say they were unfairly given C ratings in the last year on annual performance reviews. The workers he represents are "getting ready to tell the whole story at Ford," Fett said.
He received inquiries from Ford workers after having successfully represented several state police troopers in reverse discrimination lawsuits.
Fett plans to file his lawsuit on behalf of the Ford workers in federal district court, and then plans to amend the complaint to include age discrimination following a state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission review in the coming weeks, he said. Each of the men is between 40 and 50 and is considered leadership level executives at the automaker.
Fett plans to cite several diversity programs at Ford as well as public comments made by Nasser and other company executives as proof that the automaker is making personnel decisions based on race and age.
Since Nasser, a Lebanese-born Australian, became president and chief executive officer in 1999, Ford has increasingly made diversity a top priority for managers. At the same time, it has become a hot-button issue among employees.
Last year Nasser asked his top 300 managers to outline a plan to increase the diversity in their organization. Part of the executives' bonuses hinge on how well they accomplish these goals.
Fortune magazine in its July issue rated Ford the country's 30th best company for minorities. No other automaker made the top 50. In 1999, Ford made 30 percent of its new hires minorities and raised the percentage of minority managers to 15 percent.
"Increasing diversity is a major goal," Miller said. "We want to be inclusive. But the evaluations are based totally on job performance."