Montana State University
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University of California Settles Gender-Bias Lawsuit at Livermore Lab for $9.7 Million

By Jeffrey Selingo

The University of California's Board of Regents agreed last week to pay $9.7-million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of female employees at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The agreement, which marks the largest settlement ever of a gender-discrimination lawsuit by the university, involves 3,200 women employed at the lab since 1988. Some 2,500 of them still work there. In addition to a share of the damage award, each will receive a 1-percent pay increase, under the terms of the settlement. The university operates the lab, which conducts research on weapons, under a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The plaintiffs in the case alleged that for decades the lab discriminated against women in pay and promotions. When the lawsuit was filed, in 1998, lawyers for the plaintiffs said that only one female had been promoted to associate director in 50 years. They estimated at the time that the potential damages in the case could reach $500-million.

James Sturdevant, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Friday.

The agreement also calls for eliminating a ranking system for most of the lab's administrators, clerical staff members, and technicians; continuing an annual survey of the pay scales and promotion rates of women; and training supervisors on avoiding gender discrimination.

A spokeswoman for the lab, Lynda Seaver, said on Friday that many of the changes had already been put in place. The lab, she said, revamped its pay and ranking system last year. "We feel this is a fair and equitable settlement," Ms. Seaver said. "This allows us to put our past behind us and move forward."

from The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 24, 2003.