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Detroit Edison Co. Settles Lawsuit

December 16, 1997

DETROIT (AP) _ Detroit Edison Co. has tentatively agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of 3,500 minority employees, The Detroit News reported today.

Under the deal, the utility giant would pay between $17.5 million and $65 million in damages to black employees who sued after they were offered ``voluntary termination″ packages starting in 1992, the report said. An oversight board also would be set up to scrutinize company employment policies and the rehiring of minority workers.

Lawyers for both sides were scheduled to meet today to work out differences in the deal negotiated over the last year.

The settlement was negotiated by Detroit Edison employment attorney Walter B. Connolly Jr., who has also represented Mitsubishi Motors, Kmart Corp. and Yale University in discrimination suits.

Connolly told the News he wasn’t pleased that plaintiff attorneys announced the settlement. He stressed that the exact terms had not been set.

``We had a signed and sealed agreement not to arbitrate _ and not to publicly discuss it,″ he said. ``For people to jeopardize the settlement talks at this stage is both naive and outrageous.″

The lawsuit originally was filed by 15-year worker Luther Gilford, who said Detroit Edison was forcing him out. Also included in the settlement were two lawsuits filed by Hispanic workers and some employees who had been forced to take early retirement.

The lawsuit was the company’s second major discrimination lawsuit. In 1973, the utility was sued in U.S. District Court for allegedly discriminating against black job applicants. That class-action lawsuit was settled for $5 million.

Detroit Edison has about 2 million customers in southeastern Michigan. The company made $309 million in revenues in 1996.

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