Judge Approves Sex Discrimination Settlement
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A federal judge on Tuesday approved a settlement of a sex-discrimination suit against State Farm Insurance Co. that will pay up to $420,000 apiece to women who were denied jobs as insurance agents in California.
The settlement, restricted to California because the case was brought as a class-action suit involving only residents of the state, also requires that women get 50 percent of the sales agents jobs available at State Farm in California during the next 10 years.
Lawyers for three women who sued on behalf of the discrimination victims said the total award could range between $100 million and $300 million - which would be a record for a civil rights suit - based on 1,100 jobs that were filled in California during the 1974-1987 period covered by the suit.
But company lawyers say the payment estimate is far too high in light of the stringent test that claimants must meet.
To qualify for a damage award, a woman must not only show that she was rejected or was discouraged from applying for an agent’s job during the period, but also convince a court-appointed fact-finder that she was more qualified than the man who was hired.
She would then collect between $15,575 and $420,822, depending on the amount of wages she was wrongfully denied. The women would receive additional interest calculated from Tuesday until the date they are paid.
The suit was filed in 1979 by three former State Farm secretaries, Muriel Kraszewski of Los Angeles County, Wilda Tipton of Ventura County, and Daisy Jackson of Santa Clara County, who since has died. Under the settlement, the two survivors and Ms. Jackson’s estate will get the maximum award of $420,822.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled in 1985 that State Farm had discriminated against women in hiring, prompting the settlement negotiations.
Henderson approved the settlement Tuesday after a brief hearing but deferred a ruling on whether some women would be allowed to sue separately in state court on discrimination claims.
The four-month claims period will begin May 1. Women who applied for jobs with the company between 1974 and 1987 will be mailed claim forms, said Guy Saperstein, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.