On May 8, 2003, a class action complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e against Defendant Woodward Governor Company, an electronics manufacturer. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, claimed that the company engaged in unlawful employment practices on the basis of race and maintained a general corporate policy of discrimination against minorities in employment. The class plaintiffs consisted of all African American, Hispanic, and other minorities in two of the company's facilities during the applicable time period; they sought injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief.
More specifically, Plaintiffs argued that less than 3% of Defendant's employees were African American, which is a lower proportion when compared to the population in the area as well as to that of other similar employers in the region. Further, those minorities who were employed were subjected to lower wages, denied promotions, denied training, retaliation for complaining, and a generally hostile work environment filled with racial slurs and stereotypes.
A lengthy discovery battle ensued, beginning around September of 2003 and lasting until the case was resolved in 2006. Plaintiffs' complaint was amended on December 5, 2003, and again on April 26, 2004. The second amended complaint alleged additional claims of gender discrimination against Defendant under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act.
On January 3, 2005, the District Court (Judge Philip Godfrey Reinhard) certified two Plaintiff classes. The first was a "compensation class" consisting of all African American, Hispanic, and Asian employees employed by Defendant during the applicable time period. The second was an "advancement class" consisting of all African American, Hispanic, and Asian employees passed over for unposted promotions during the applicable period.
Subsequently, because these same classes of employees had simultaneously filed a complaint with the EEOC, the EEOC submitted a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on October 4, 2006. The complaint alleged the same unlawful employment practices, and also sought injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief.
After years of negotiation, the parties finally came to a settlement, which was approved by the District Court (Judge Reinhard) on October 5, 2006. The decree consolidated the initial case and the EEOC case and dismissed all claims. Further, the Plaintiff classes were re-categorized. The first class, the "Minority Class," consisted of all African American, Hispanic, and Asian employees and former employees of Defendant who worked at either of the facilities during the applicable time period. The second class was a "Gender Class," consisting of female employees or former employees meeting those same criteria.
The relief granted by the decree was extensive. First, it generally enjoined the Defendants from engaging in any discriminatory policies, practices, or retaliation as barred by Title VII. Further, a settlement fund of $4.8 million (accruing interest for a total of $5 million) for the potential class claimants was established. $2.4 million was to be allocated to the Minority Class and $2.6 million was reserved for the Gender Class. The decree additionally required Defendant to establish a discrimination complaint procedure, as well as to provide mandatory discrimination training for all of its employees and managers. The decree also assigned an industrial psychologist to conduct a thorough analysis of all of the Defendant's job positions. The psychologist was then to establish job descriptions and minimum criteria for each position, followed by a performance review system and compensation review process. Through this system, each employee was to be re-classified and put into an appropriate position. A special master was assigned to enforce the decree, and it was to remain in effect for a period of three and a half years.
The decree, however, did not end the litigation; there have been multiple motions and orders concerning the minutia of enforcing the decree. However, on February 17, 2010 the District Court (Judge Reinhard) determined that the terms of the consent decree had been met, and the case was closed.Adam Teitelbaum - 03/27/2010