ATLANTA (AP) _ Coca-Cola Co. has named Coretha Rushing, a 43-year-old black woman, as head of human resources as the nation's biggest soft drink company continues to grapple with fallout from massive job cuts and a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Rushing has worked at Coca-Cola for four years and has 19 years of experience in human resource management.

She replaces Michael Walters, who retired last month.

In her new position, Rushing will be responsible for overseeing recruitment, staffing, compensation, benefits and employee training and development.

The soft drink company is in the middle of cutting about 6,000 jobs from its global workforce of 29,000 and is about to begin negotiations to settle a discrimination suit.

The suit, filed by eight current and former employees, seeks class-action status for 2,000 of the company's black salaried employees in the United States.

Coca-Cola denies the lawsuit's contention that the company discriminates against black employees in pay, promotions and performance evaluations.

However, the company's new leader, Doug Daft, has said the company is ``working toward an expedient and equitable resolution.''

Daft also has said he will be linking his success and compensation _ as well as his managers' _ to meeting soon-to-be-established diversity goals.

He is also creating a new position of vice president and director of diversity, who will report directly to him.

Meanwhile, about 150 current and former employees are planning a ``justice ride'' from Atlanta to the annual shareholders meeting in Delaware next month to pressure the company into settling the suit quickly.

As the buses roll from Atlanta to the April 19 shareholders meeting in Wilmington, Del., the company and the plaintiffs' attorneys are scheduled to begin settlement talks with a court-ordered mediator.