Northern Telecom Agrees To Compensate Workers Over Secret Surveillance
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Northern Telecom agreed Thursday to pay a total of $250,000 to workers and others who claimed in a class action lawsuit the company subjected them to secret electronic surveillance.
In settlement of the lawsuit filed by the Communication Workers of America union, the company denied ever authorizing or approving any bugging or telephone wiretaps at the manufacturing plant in Nashville.
But Northern Telecom, the fourth largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, conceded there was some evidence of electronic monitoring between 1976 and 1989.
″We did uncover evidence that unauthorized monitoring occurred and we’re deeply regretful,″ said Linda Henson, Northern Telecom’s senior manager of media relations.
No managers ever ordered or authorized such surveillance, she said.
CWA charged in the lawsuit that Northern Telecom used hidden bugs and wiretaps to identify and weed out CWA supporters and thwart union organizing.
Henson said the employee who arranged the bugging no longer works for Northern Telecom. She said the three or four other employees involved had no reason to know or believe it was illegal.
She said the company entered into the settlement in part because Northern Telecom officials thought the company should take responsibility for what happened.
The settlement calls for Northern Telecom to pay $50,000 to the five plaintiffs - Jesse Parrish, Bernice Christenson, Joyce Carr, Robert Lever and Mildred Lever.
The company has agreed to pay $200,000 toward settlement of the class claims, with $2,000 being the maximum that an individual can receive.
Any current or former employee or member of the public who can show there is reason to believe their conversations may have been secretly recorded at the plant is eligible to make a claim under terms of the settlement.
Any money left over from the $200,000 fund will be donated to a charity or a non-profit institution to be agreed upon by the parties.
The company will pay $125,000 for attorneys fees and court costs.
Northern Telecom recently announced a new workplace monitoring policy that states the company will not engage in or permit any secret monitoring of employees.
The plant at which the monitoring took place was then a terminal manufacturing plant. It now is a repair and distribution center.
Workers voted for CWA representation in 1981, but rejected union representation in a later vote decertifying CWA.