$15 Million Tentative Settlement Reached in Pay Discrimination Class Action

C. H. Robinson Worldwide ("CHRW") has reached a $15 million settlement in principle to resolve the sex discrimination claims of a class of approximately 1,500 salaried female workers (Carlson v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., D. Minn., No. CIV 02-3780, tentative settlement reached 4/11/06). The tentative settlement is subject to approval by Judge Joan M. Ericksen of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota at a preliminary approval hearing scheduled for June 12, 2006.

The proposed settlement would resolve claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act against CHRW, an Eden Prairie, Minnesota trucking firm, by female workers residing in more than 40 states. The $15 million payment would include damages, fees, and costs. The company admits no liability under the agreement.

The tentative settlement is a result of a lawsuit filed in 2002 against the trucking company by several female workers who alleged discrimination in pay and promotions, disparate treatment, and impact. The lawsuit claimed that company branch managers’ unfettered discretion to compute salary, bonuses and other compensation, coupled with the absence of objective compensation factors, such as performance reviews, resulted in women being paid less than their male counterparts.

Additionally, the complaint alleged that while women comprised more than one-third of the company’s workforce, they held only four percent of its branch manager positions.

In 2005, the district court allowed the class action to proceed, certifying two classes for pay and promotion discrimination claims. The compensation claim class included all full-time female salaried employees who had been with the company since August 17, 2001.

The promotion class, a subset of the compensation class, included all female workers who had worked full-time for at least two years in sales or operations since the same date. This class included between 500 and 600 workers.

Steven M. Sprenger of Sprenger & Lang of Washington D.C., attorneys for the class, said the court denied class certification to sexual harassment claims filed by the plaintiffs, so none of these claims are part of the proposed settlement.

Sprenger also said the proposed settlement does not include female employees’ unpaid overtime claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These claims were consolidated with another lawsuit that includes both men and women working at CHRW.

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