Thursday, June 28, 2007
Journal Staff Report
A federal court judge Wednesday gave final approval to a settlement between the University of California and a group of Hispanic and female Los Alamos National Laboratory employees under which the university will pay out $16.4 million.
Two suits, eventually consolidated by court order, alleged years of gender and racial discrimination in pay disparities at the lab under the University of California's management through 2006.
About 5,500 current and former LANL employees will be eligible for payouts. The settlement will be shared by female and Hispanic employees who have worked at the lab between December 2000 and the present and who submit valid claims.
The lab previously had agreed to pay $12 million to settle the suits. An additional $4.4 million was added in the final settlement approved by U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson on Wednesday to cover attorneys' fees and other costs.
John C. Bienvenu, one of the attorneys for the employees, said in a written statement that the employees who sued "succeeded in forcing the University of California to acknowledge that it owes compensation to the women and Hispanic employees that have been treated unfairly."
But LANL has maintained it committed no wrongdoing and that any pay disparities were the result of legitimate business factors unrelated to gender or race.
The University of California ran the lab from its creation during World War II until last year. LANL is now operated by Los Alamos National Security, a limited liability corporation led by the university and Bechtel National.
Patrick D. Allen, another attorney involved in the case, said the plaintiffs had "put their own careers at risk to stand up for the fundamental right of equal pay for equal work."
Laura Barber, one of the lead plaintiffs, said: "We are confident that this settlement will send a message to the current and future operator of Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as other government contractors, that women are entitled to equal pay for equal work."
Individuals who believe they may be members of the class have 30 days to file claims. They can get information regarding the settlement by contacting the attorneys for the plaintiffs.