Qualcomm, Female Workers Settle Bias Claims for $19.5M

By Kevin McGowan

July 26 — Qualcomm Inc. and female employees agreed to a $19.5 million settlement of class sex discrimination claims in a deal that is subject to a federal district court's approval, the plaintiffs' attorneys announced ( Pan v. Qualcomm Inc., S.D. Cal., No. 16-1885, proposed settlement filed 7/26/16 ).

The female employees filed a class complaint July 25 and the proposed settlement July 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, as Qualcomm and the seven named plaintiffs reached a pre-lawsuit settlement, the plaintiffs' law firm of Sanford Heisler LLP said.

The plaintiffs also filed a motion for preliminary approval of the settlement, which would cover approximately 3,300 female current or former employees who worked for Qualcomm Inc., Qualcomm Technologies Inc., or their related subsidiaries or affiliates at any time since Dec. 4, 2011.

The plaintiffs alleged Qualcomm discriminated against women in pay, promotions and other employment opportunities in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act and California law.

Women performing jobs related to the science, technology, engineering and math fields were paid less than male Qualcomm employees doing the same work, the plaintiffs said. Women also occupied fewer than 15 percent of the senior leadership jobs at the company, they alleged.

Changes to Ensure Equal Opportunities

Under the proposed settlement, Qualcomm would make changes to ensure that female employees in STEM fields have equal employment opportunities, according to Sanford Heisler.

Qualcomm would hire two independent consultants who specialize in industrial organizational psychology to assess the company's current policies and practices and recommend specific steps to make it a more equitable workplace for women.

Qualcomm subsequently would appoint an internal compliance official to ensure those recommendations are implemented.

“This settlement represents a giant leap forward toward leveling the playing field and can serve as a model of best practices for other technology companies,” plaintiffs' attorney David Sanford said in a July 26 statement.

“That the settlement has produced such an excellent result without litigation is a tribute to the good faith Qualcomm and the plaintiffs exhibited throughout the settlement process,” Sanford said.

“Qualcomm is committed to treating its employees fairly and equitably,” said Christine Trimble, the company's vice president of public affairs.

“While we have strong defenses to the claims, we elected to focus on continuing to make meaningful enhancements to our internal programs and processes that drive equity and a diverse and inclusive workforce, which are values that we share and embrace,” Trimble said in a July 26 statement.

Paul Hastings LLP represents Qualcomm.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the complaint is at http://src.bna.com/g9k, the proposed settlement at http://src.bna.com/g9j and the plaintiffs' brief seeking preliminary approval at http://src.bna.com/g9C.

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