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Pennzoil Settles Blacks’ Lawsuit

November 12, 1998

HOUSTON (AP) _ Pennzoil Co. has agreed to pay $6.75 million to as many as 700 black employees to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the oil company of discriminatory employment practices.

Under the settlement, the Houston-based company also will designate an employee to oversee compliance with minority employment policies.

The agreement announced Wednesday does not constitute an admission of liability by Pennzoil. The settlement is subject to court approval and the notification of all black employees, past and present, who are eligible to participate in the settlement.

The lawsuit, filed in 1996, was brought by 11 plaintiffs on behalf of about 700 salaried black employees who worked for Pennzoil from Aug. 16, 1994 to Aug. 17, 1998.

The plaintiffs accused Pennzoil of failing to give raises and promotions to black employees that were given to their white counterparts.

At the time the suit was filed, only one black employee earned more than $100,000 a year, while hundreds of whites earned that amount, plaintiffs’ attorney Larkin Eakin Jr. said Thursday.

Pennzoil has since given substantial raises to its black employees, particularly in middle management, Eakin said.

Eakin said the settlement ``will ensure that all African-Americans are given equal opportunities at Pennzoil.″

Under the settlement, Pennzoil also must make a good-faith attempt to increase its visibility in the black community and encourage more minorities to apply for jobs.

A Pennzoil spokesman did not return a call from the Associated Press.

Pennzoil plans to spin off its motor oil, refined products and franchise operations into a company that will merge with Quaker State Corp. of Irving. The merged company, Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., is expected to control 30 to 35 percent of the motor oil market in the United States.

Linda Wills, an employment litigation attorney who was not involved in the lawsuit, said the merger plans undoubtedly influenced Pennzoil’s decision to settle.

Ms. Wills, calling the settlement amount significant, said the case would heighten the awareness of other companies regarding minority employment practices.

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