Ford settles 2 age-bias lawsuits

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co., eager to boost morale in the post-Jacques Nasser era, last week settled two class-action discrimination suits filed by middle managers.

The managers, mainly middle-aged white males, alleged they were victims of age discrimination after they received low marks in performance reviews adopted by former CEO Nasser.

The reviews undermined morale and contributed to Nasser's dismissal in November.

Chairman Bill Ford assumed Nasser's CEO duties.

Ford managers were graded A, B or C. The policy required that a certain percentage of a department's staff receive a C. Those who received a C did not receive bonuses. Staffers who got a C two years in a row were subject to dismissal.

In the preliminary settlement approved in Wayne County (Mich.) Circuit Court, the company acknowledged no wrongdoing but settled to put the episode to rest, said spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari.

The plaintiffs dismissed claims of race and gender discrimination as part of the preliminary settlement.

Under the settlement, 530 Ford Motor managers will split $7.9 million. That averages $14,906 each, but the awards will vary widely. Attorneys for the plaintiffs will receive $2.6 million.

This year Ford dropped the requirement that a certain percentage of a department's staffers receive C grades.

Plaintiffs' attorney Glen Lenhoff of Flint, Mich., said he argued to remove the poor reviews from the managers' files as part of the settlement. But the reviews will remain.

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