ST. LOUIS -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Monsanto Company, Chevron Chemical Company, and a group of 43 former employees of Chevron Chemical's Ortho Consumer Products business agreed today to a consent decree that resolves an age, race, and disability discrimination lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the plaintiffs will be paid a total of $18,250,000, which includes lost wages, compensation for other damages, the fees and cost of the plaintiffs' attorneys, and the costs of the EEOC.
Federal Judge George F. Gunn, Jr. in St. Louis approved the consent decree today. A trial was scheduled to start June 3, and was expected to last six to eight weeks.
The 43 plaintiffs filed suit against both companies in June 1994 after they were terminated. The plaintiffs are represented by the St. Paul, Minn., law firm of Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
In March 1995, the EEOC intervened and joined the lawsuit on the plaintiffs' behalf, adding a claim that the companies failed to keep necessary relevant documents.
As part of the consent decree, Monsanto's Solaris unit and Chevron Chemical denied wrongdoing or that they engaged in discrimination of any kind.
The lawsuit grew out of Monsanto's 1993 acquisition of the Ortho Consumer Products Division from Chevron Chemical. As part of the acquisition, Monsanto hired approximately 75% of the Ortho workforce.
In addition to the settlement payment, the consent decree provides that within 12 months, Chevron Chemical's Agricultural Group and Solaris will conduct four hours of training for certain supervisory employees on compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Solaris and Chevron Chemical's Agricultural Group will consult the EEOC in preparing training materials.
Solaris also agreed to comply with EEOC record-keeping regulations, to analyze the impact of any layoffs on workers over 40 and on African-Americans before implementing the layoffs, and committed to certain reporting to the EEOC. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the consent decree.
Settlement was reached after months of negotiations, including sessions with a private mediator. EEOC's Chairman, Gilbert F. Casellas, said, "This settlement not only represents significant relief to the parties, but shows that mediation and strong enforcement are not incompatible. I commend private counsel, mediation personnel, and the representatives of the employers for their successful efforts."
Stephen J. Snyder of Winthrop & Weinstine said, "This settlement upholds the rights for our clients - and all older Americans - to be free from discrimination in their jobs. It shows that `the little guy' can obtain just and fair treatment even when facing the largest of corporate defendants. Finally, it proves that employers must treat employees fairly regardless of their age, race, or disability."
Jan Novak, Solaris president, said, "We have maintained, and again strongly assert, that no one at Monsanto or Solairs has done anything to discriminate against any person or group. We decided to settle these claims to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation. Monsanto and Solaris adhere to very clear guidelines preventing discrimination of any kind and we confirm today our commitment to those guidelines."
Chevron Chemical's senior vice president, Darry Callahan, said, "Chevron Chemical does not discriminate and is committed to the fair and sensitive treatment of all employees. The company has had policies in place for many years and conducts frequent training aimed at creating a work environment free of any form of harassment or discrimination. A full-time in-house ombudsman assists the company in facilitating the resolution of employee concerns." Callahan added that "under an indemnification agreement reached as part of the Ortho acquisition, Chevron Chemical will pay no part of the settlement."
The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based in race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal sector; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments.
Solaris, the Monsanto business unit acquiring Ortho, is headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., and is a residential lawn and garden business. Chevron Chemical, also based in San Ramon, manufactures and markets petro-chemicals, plastics, and additives in 80 countries worldwide.