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Publix Settles Job Discrimination Lawsuit

April 16, 1996

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) _ Publix Super Market Inc. has settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee who alleged she was fired after repeatedly complaining about unequal pay with male workers.

Janifer Ellis’s lawsuit is separate from two job discrimination lawsuits filed against Publix by women who contend they were kept in dead-end jobs while men were promoted into management positions.

Terms of the settlement with Ellis were not disclosed. Asked for details of the settlement, Publix spokesman Jennifer Bush said Tuesday that ``the matter has been resolved.″

Ellis, a former real estate tax manager for the company, filed the suit last year in U.S. District Court in Tampa. Neither she nor her attorney, David Linesch, of Palm Harbor, were available for comment.

Publix said she was fired for having an affair with a business associate.

According to court documents, Publix had policies to code job applications to denote race, gender and disabilities.

According to an affidavit by Hope Kline, Publix’s former employment office manager, and Joni McDermott, an interview specialist who worked for Kline, Publix would mark forms from black applicants with a ``K.″

Kline said in sworn testimony that warehouse supervisors told her not to send black applicants because they didn’t want to have more black workers than whites.

Employment forms from disabled applicants were marked with a sticker noting the person’s disability, McDermott said. The practice ended sometime in 1992, McDermott said in a deposition.

Both women, who no longer work for Publix, also said men’s and women’s applications were sorted and filed separately.

``It is our understanding that individual associates started this practice as their way of supporting the company’s commitment to diversity,″ Publix spokeswoman Bush said Tuesday. ``However, several years ago, Publix decided that the procedures they had set up were inappropriate, and the practice was stopped.″

Early last month, a lawsuit accusing Publix of keeping women in dead-end jobs was broadened to include current and former female workers. It was estimated the suit could include 100,000 women. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is also part of that suit.

About two weeks later, a sex-discrimination complaint from a former bakery store manager launched a lawsuit claiming as many as 20,000 nonstore employees in the Lakeland, Fla.-based chain were victimized.

Publix operates 489 stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The company has 99,000 employees, and sales last year totaled $9.4 billion.