Settlement of $17.5M in Bias Suit By Black Truckers Against Wal-Mart Becomes Final
By CHUCK BARTELS
AP Business Writer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A federal judge has given final approval to a $17.5 million settlement of a discrimination lawsuit that accused Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of not hiring black truck drivers.
U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson Jr. on Wednesday signed an order in Little Rock approving the settlement in the class-action case, a ruling that will also have the world's largest retailer take steps to hire more black drivers.
Attorney Morgan "Chip" Welch said Thursday that members in the class applied to drive for Wal-Mart between 2001 and 2008 and were turned away in disproportional numbers. Of the approximately 4,500 plaintiffs, those that applied earliest stand to receive the greatest settlement payments.
The settlement includes job placements for 23 of the black drivers who sued. The company will also have to notify other members of the class of future openings and establish hiring goals so that the company hires in proportion to the ethnic makeup of its applicants.
Wal-Mart also agreed to put greater effort into minority recruitment and target some of its jobs advertising to reach African-Americans.
The Bentonville-based company said Thursday it would not comment beyond a Feb. 20 news release it issued when the settlement proposal was announced. The company denied any unlawful discrimination and said resolving the case would be in Wal-Mart's best interest.
Wilson still has to rule on fees in the case, which are proposed at $6.3 million, including up to $450,000 in costs. That sum would come out of the $17.5 million settlement, leaving $11.2 million for members of the class to divide.
That would provide an average of about $2,500 for individual plaintiffs, though Welch noted "there is no average member" of the class.
The settlement stipulates that the agreement is not evidence that Wal-Mart engaged in discrimination or any other unlawful conduct.
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