Global Infrastructure Equipment Company Relieved of Operating Under Decree in Discrimination Case After 36 Months of Continuous Progress
ROCKFORD, Ill. – Federal District Judge Philip G. Reinhard has accepted the final report of a court-appointed monitor regarding the compliance of Woodward Governor Company, a Colorado-based global infrastructure equipment manufacturer and service provider, with a $5 million consent decree. Reinhard had finally approved the decree in 2007 in two employment discrimination cases brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a class of company employees. Nancy B. Kreiter, who wrote the report, had been appointed by Judge Reinhard to monitor and advise the company with respect to its compliance efforts and to periodically report to the court and the parties.
The decree provided for Woodward Governor to be relieved from its further operation after 36 months if Kreiter determined that it had fully complied with the decree, including applying its “policies and practices regarding compensation, promotion and training in such a way as not to discriminate unlawfully against minorities and women with respect to compensation, promotion and training.” In view of the uniformly positive findings of Kreiter’s detailed 67-page report, Judge Reinhard relieved the company from continued operation of the decree. His order was entered late yesterday, February 17, 2010.
The litigation began on May 8, 2003, when a group of employees filed a class action lawsuit (Bell, et al v. Woodward Governor Company, N.D. Ill. No. 03 50190) against Woodward Governor, asserting that it engaged in illegal discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics and Asians at its Rockford and Rockton, Ill., facilities with respect to pay, promotions and training, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. On October 4, 2006, the EEOC sued Woodward (EEOC v. Woodward Governor Company, N.D. Ill. No. 06 C 50178), alleging the same violations, and adding a claim that Woodward also had discriminated against women in violation of Title VII and the Equal Pay Act (EPA). The two suits were consolidated by the court for litigation.
The single consent decree resolving the suits was granted final approval on February 16, 2007, by Judge Reinhard, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, in Rockford. It established a $2.4 million settlement fund to be shared by minority employees who worked at Woodward Governor’s Rockford or Rockton plants at any time since May 1999, and a $2.6 million settlement fund to be shared by female employees who worked at Woodward Governor’s Rockford or Rockton plants at any time since June 2002. All of the monetary relief provided for by the decree has been paid and there will be no additional distributions of monetary relief.
In addition to the monetary settlement, the consent decree mandated extensive injunctive relief. The decree required that Woodward utilize an industrial organizational psychologist to perform an analysis of production jobs that were at issue in the suit and develop written job descriptions for those jobs as well as a performance appraisal and compensation review process. Upon completion of the job analysis, Woodward was required to review the job assignments of its current production employees and adjust them as necessary based on the new job descriptions.
The decree also authorized the appointment of Kreiter, of Chicago, to oversee and assist in Woodward’s implementation of, and compliance with, the consent decree. In the past, Kreiter has provided similar services in connection with the implementation of the consent decrees which resolved two EEOC sex discrimination lawsuits – EEOC v. Mitsubishi and EEOC v. The Dial Corporation.
In her final report, filed with the court, Kreiter highlighted “Woodward’s commitment to compliance and the vigor with which it embraced my recommendations [and] dramatic changes in matters of both personnel and policy.” She concluded, “The Company is *** different today with respect to the issues that led to the consent decree. Woodward succeeded in institutionalizing EEO best practices and model compliance with all aspects of the decree not only in Rockford/Rockton but also throughout the company on a national and global basis. * * * I strongly believe that Woodward achieved extraordinary improvements because of the decree. Woodward, the [private] plaintiffs, and the EEOC should all be extremely pleased with the outcome.”
“The consent decree in this case was innovative and effective – a model for future EEOC litigation and a guidepost for defendants in our cases,” Acting EEOC Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said. “We are proud of the work the EEOC’s Chicago District Office did in this case on behalf of the victims of discrimination. We also are gratified at the way Woodward embraced the requirements of the consent decree and implemented real and meaningful change to advance true equal employment opportunity for its workers.”
John Hendrickson, regional attorney in the EEOC Chicago District Office, said, “There is a lot to be pleased about and learned from these events. The first is that, in EEOC litigation, obtaining monetary relief for victims of discrimination is only a part of what we’re about. We also attach great importance to the impact of injunctive relief, which will benefit not only today’s employees but tomorrow’s as well.”
“Second,” Hendrickson added, “Kreiter’s report demonstrates how court-appointed decree monitors with experience and expertise in both civil rights and business can work with forward-looking employers not only to combat employment discrimination, but also to better position their companies to compete in a global environment.”
“Finally, the Woodward-Governor litigation and Nancy Kreiter’s work and report are convincing evidence that change is possible, that people of goodwill, working cooperatively, can achieve major changes in limited amounts of time, and that the national policy embedded in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act actually does work and can be effectively implemented in practice.”
The plaintiffs in the private class action were represented by Jennifer K. Soule, James G. Bradtke, and Kelly K. Lambert of Soule, Bradtke & Lambert of Chicago. Firms associated with them on the case were Robert D. Allison & Associates, Law Offices of Stephen G. Seliger, and Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., all of Chicago, and Law Offices of Peter G. Earle of Milwaukee.
Woodward Governor describes itself on its web site (www.woodward.com) as “an independent designer, manufacturer, and service provider of energy control and optimization solutions used in global infrastructure equipment [serving] the aerospace, power generation and distribution, and transportation markets.” Woodward has thousands of employees and facilities in the United States and worldwide. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Fort Collins, Colo.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.