Friday, March 30, 2007
LANL Settlement Objection Overruled
A federal judge has overruled a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee's objections to a $12 million class action lawsuit settlement. The ruling, handed down this week by District Judge William Johnson, could clear the way for final approval of the settlement, which was negotiated after several women sued the lab alleging years of racial and gender discrimination. A final approval hearing was originally scheduled for last October, but legal objections delayed it.
Johnson is waiting on a panel of arbitrators to determine what attorneys' fees will be before rescheduling the hearing, lawyers in the case said Thursday. Checks could be mailed out "by late summer or early fall, if all goes smoothly," said John Bienvenu, a lawyer representing workers in the case. More than 7,700 current and former employees may be eligible for payouts, which would range from $200 to $9,200 for class members. Five women who initiated the suit would receive $122,000 each under terms of the agreement.
LANL worker Laurie Quon formally objected to the settlement, arguing that the women who initiated the lawsuit would receive excessive payouts. She also contends that the agreement, which releases the lab from future discrimination claims, is too broad and that proposed attorneys fees are excessive. Johnson overruled those objections, noting that employees who aren't satisfied with the settlement can opt out and pursue their own cases. Quon's attorney, George Geran, said Thursday that he may appeal Johnson's ruling to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Settlement payouts could be delayed "indefinitely," pending the outcome of an appeal, Bienvenu said. Six female LANL employees (one of whom has since opted out of the settlement) filed separate discrimination lawsuits against former lab manager the University of California in 2003 and 2004. The suits, which allege pay and promotions disparities stemming from years of gender and racial discrimination, were merged into a single class-action case, and the parties announced a settlement agreement last May. So far, 3,100 employees have filed claims, while 129 have opted out of the settlement, Bienvenu said.