Lockheed, Black Workers’ $22.8M Class Bias Settlement Rejected

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By Patrick Dorrian

A $22.8 million settlement between Lockheed Martin Corp. and a group of about 5,500 black workers resolving proposed class race discrimination claims doesn’t pass muster and must be rejected, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled ( Ross v. Lockheed Martin Corp. , 2017 BL 262385, D.D.C., No. 16-cv-02508, settlement approval denied 7/28/17 ).

The proposed pact raises “fairness-related red flags” for the workers because it would force them to relinquish “the entire universe” of race bias claims they may have against the aerospace and defense company, not just those relating to the allegedly discriminatory employee evaluation process that is the subject of the lawsuit, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said July 28 in denying the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of the proposed settlement.

They would also have to provide that overbroad release of claims to Lockheed without first knowing the potential value of all the race bias claims they may have against the company or their projected cut of the proposed $22.8 million settlement fund, the judge added.

The court likewise denied the workers’ motion for preliminary class certification. Vernon Ross and Debra Josey, workers named in the case, didn’t suggest a theory as to “how” the challenged performance review system had a disparate impact in pay, promotions, and retention on all salaried black workers below the level of vice president during the three-year period covered by the lawsuit or that it affected all of them in the same way, the court said.

Reviewing the Opinion

Both sides told Bloomberg BNA they were still in the process of reviewing the court’s opinion before deciding on their next move in the case, which was filed in December.

“There are many outstanding aspects of this settlement, and we are particularly proud of the programmatic relief,” class co-counsel Charlie Firth said in a July 28 email. “We intend to carefully review the Court’s concerns, and address them as soon as possible,” he said. Firth is with Engelmeier & Umanah P.A. in Minneapolis.

“We are aware of the court’s decision denying class certification and therefore not approving the proposed class settlement,” a Lockheed spokesman said in a July 28 email. “We continue to be fully committed to diversity and inclusion in our workplace and are considering next steps.”

Cyrus Mehri of Mehri & Skalet in Washington also represented the proposed class. Grace E. Speights and Krissy Anne Katzenstein of Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Washington represented Lockheed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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