An Illinois firm recently settled an EEOC suit alleging discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and women. Woodward Governor paid $5 million to two class action suits alleging discrimination at its plants in Rockford, Illinois and Rockton, Illinois. The company is based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to promotional material issued by the company, Woodward Governor is “the world’s largest independent designer, manufacturer, and service provider of energy control solutions for aircraft engines, industrial engines and turbines, power generation, and process automation equipment.” Woodward has approximately 1,100 employees at the Rockford and Rockton plants.
The Illinois plants are just two of 25 facilities worldwide including Australia, Brazil, China, Indian, Japan, Korea, and Poland. The company also has 10 plants in the U.S.
On May 8, 2003, a number of employees filed a class action suit against the Woodward Governor Company charging that the firm discriminated in pay, promotions and training against African-American, Hispanic and Asian employees. This violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, religion or national origin.
On October 4, 2006, the EEOC filed a similar claim on behalf of a number of employees, alleging that the company’s discriminatory practices included limiting opportunities for women. These actions violate Title VII, as well as the Equal Pay Act, which requires that women be paid the same amount as men for work that is substantially the same.
The two suits were consolidated by the court.
In filing the consent decree, Judge Philip Reinhard of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois established a $2.4 million settlement for the minority employees. The award covers all minority employees who worked at the company’s Rockford or Rockton plants since May 1999. The judge established a separate $2.6 million fund to be shared by female employees who worked at Woodward Governor’s Illinois plants since June 2002.
The decree contains a number of other requirements. Woodward Governor must hire an industrial organizational psychologist to perform an analysis of production jobs that were an issue in the suit. The psychologist must develop written job descriptions, performance appraisals and a comprehensive review process for the positions. Once that is complete, Woodward Governor is required to review the job assignments of current production employees and adjust them if necessary.
The decree also authorizes the appointment of Nancy B. Kreiter to oversee Woodward’s implementation and compliance with the decree. Kreiter, of Chicago, has provided similar decrees with other EEOC lawsuits on sex discrimination against Mitsubishi Motors and the Dial Corporation. Kreiter will provide annual reports assessing Woodward’s compliance with the decree.
Woodward must implement a procedure for investigating complaints of discrimination under the agreement. In addition, the company must train all employees regarding the discrimination laws and the complaint procedure. It will report the results twice annually to Kreiter, the EEOC and the attorney representing the plaintiffs. These reviews must include information on promotion decisions, compensation and job training for employees.
These severe restrictions have led some pundits to the conclusion that Woodward Governor’s actions were especially severe.
“The EEOC is very satisfied with both the monetary and non-monetary relief provided for in the consent decree,” said EEOC Attorney John Hendrickson. “The $5 million settlement fund provides for significant monetary relief, and the appointment of Nancy Kreiter to oversee implementation of the decree ensures that the decree will bring about comprehensive changes at Woodward resulting in equal opportunity and treatment for all of Woodward’s employees.”
The Director of the EEOC Chicago District Office, John Rowe, who managed the agency’s pre-suit administrative investigation of Woodward Governor, said, “Our sense now is that Woodward Governor is determined to make the aspirations memorialized in the consent decree part of daily life at the company. With that, with the work of Ms. Kreiter, and with the good will of everyone involved, the future looks bright for everyone at Woodward Governor.” Rowe led the agency’s pre-suit investigation of the company.
EEOC Attorney Ann Henry, added, “The job analyses provided for by the consent decree should position Woodward to make future job assignment and compensation decisions based on job-related, non-discriminatory criteria and should go a long way in assuring a discrimination-free work environment at the company.” Henry tried the case along with Attorney. Gregory Gochanour.
Colorado Sexual Discrimination Law in the Workplace follows a state law that is slightly stricter than the Federal Title VII laws. According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 24, Article 34, Part 4, it is illegal in Colorado for employers to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender.
Also according to this statute, an employer is anyone who employs another person including political subdivision, commissions, departments, institutions and school districts and any religious organization that is funded by taxes or other public money. The difference between the Colorado Statutes and the federal Title VII laws is that the federal laws only refer to employers who have fifteen or more employees while in Colorado the law applies to all employers with at least one employee.
Employees under this law are any people who are employed by an employer (as defined above) except people in domestic services of another person. I’ve also found that in Colorado, discrimination isn’t considered an illegal act until a complaint has been file. To file a complaint, the employee must contact the Colorado Civil Rights Division in Denver within six months of the last discriminatory act. Filing a complaint consists of filling out an employment intake form.
The Colorado Civil Rights Division will then investigate the complaint to eventually make a “probably cause” or “no probably cause” determination on the complaint. The first thing they do is draw up a charge of discrimination which you will need to sign and then they send it to the employer in question. The Division then gives the employer a chance to respond to the complaint.
They will also attempt mediation. If that falls through, they will conduct an investigation to make their final determination. Cases that are awarded a “probably cause” determination move to settlement negotiations. If unsuccessful, the Division may issue a Right to Sue form so that you can take the case to the court system.
If you decide that you want to take the case to the courts without going through the Colorado Civil Rights Division investigation, you must go through the EEOC or the Division and directly request a “Right to Sue” notice.
Both employers and employees are responsible for knowing the laws and keep their workplace safe as well as knowing their rights under the laws. More details about the Colorado sexual discrimination laws can be found on the Colorado Complete Labor Law poster.