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Settlement in Sumitomo Discrimination Case Approved

February 25, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Japanese-owned trading company has agreed to hire more non-Japanese managers to settle a discrimination lawsuit, according to court papers filed Monday.

Sumitomo Corp. of America had been sued for its alleged preference of giving management positions to Japanese nationals from the parent company, Sumitomo Shoji Kaisha Ltd. of Japan.

In an order filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, U.S. Magistrate Michael H. Dolinger gave final approval to the settlement of a 1988 class- action lawsuit on behalf of 130 former and present non-Japanese Sumitomo employees.

The settlement bars discrimination against any employee or class member based on national origin, race or color.

The agreement, which will be implemented over three years, also includes provisions for increased hiring of non-Japanese managers, cash payments of up to $17,000 based on the number of years employed and higher wages.

The two named plaintiffs, Anthony R. Yap and Vishu Sethi, will receive $30,000 each. Sumitomo, which insisted the men give up their jobs upon approval of the settlement, also will provide them with unspecified severance pay.

The settlement covers male employees because women employees of Sumitomo received similar concessions in the settlement of an earlier discrimination suit.

Dolinger said he approved the settlement after weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the employees’ case.

The magistrate said he found discriminatory practices because Sumitomo conceded it preferred Japanese nationals in management jobs.

However, he said the company might have been successful if the case went to trial in arguing that the Japanese were better qualified for management positions because they spoke the language and were familiar with the culture, customs and business practices of Japan.

Dolinger said the settlement represented ″a substantial achievement and a vindication of the anti-discrimination policies.″

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