California Regents Approve
Settlement in Gender Discrimination Class Action Against Lawrence Livermore
Lab to Change Procedures, Pay Over
$10.6 Million, and Provide Fair Pay and Promotions for Thousands of Female
The Regents of the University of California (the
“Regents”) voted on November 19, 2003 to approve a settlement agreement that
would resolve a class action lawsuit charging that thousands of female employees
were denied equal pay and promotional opportunities at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory (the “Lab”), a national security research facility
managed by the Regents for the U.S. Department of Energy. The Regents’
endorsement clears the way for the parties to seek approval of the deal from the
County Superior Court in Oakland, California, where the lawsuit is pending.
More than 3,000 female Lab employees are represented by four law firms,
including lead counsel The
Sturdevant Law Firm in San Francisco and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (“TLPJ”),
a national public interest law firm.
Aerial view of LLNL's main campus. Photo by
GlobeXplorer, Airphoto USA.
“The proposed settlement is a victory for
female employees at one of America's top laboratories and for everyone who cares
about equal opportunity in the workplace,” said plaintiffs’ lead counsel
James Sturdevant. “This settlement will significantly change the Lab’s
compensation and promotion policies so that women who work at the forefront of
national security will finally get the pay and promotions they deserve.”
The lawsuit was filed nearly five years ago, on
December 23, 1998, charging that female Lab employees in a variety of job
categories are paid and promoted less than male employees with comparable
education and experience. One of the lawsuit’s main contentions is that the
Lab has discriminated against women through a system which bases annual salary
adjustments on an employee’s subjectively determined “Relative Value Rank”
- a number which supposedly reflects an employee’s “value” to the Lab as
compared to other employees. Plaintiffs allege that this system allows gender
stereotyping and biases to influence decisions. The lawsuit also alleges that
the Lab had documented, but failed to correct, discrimination against women for
more than a decade.
“We’ve fought for five long years - some of
us even longer - to get the Lab to listen to and address our concerns,” said
Shirley Jennings, a representative plaintiff and a computer support associate at
the Lab. “I’m proud that our efforts have led to reforms that will help end
bias against my female colleagues and me. I think this agreement will go a long
way toward shattering the glass ceiling for women at the Lab.”
If the settlement agreement is approved, the Lab
will dramatically overhaul its performance management system, including its
system of Relative Value Ranking (RVR), and its human resource practices. For
• The Lab will eliminate RVR for three groups
of administrative and technical employees. Compensation for these employees
will instead be based on a system that determines pay primarily based on the
employee’s job classification and performance.
• The Lab will issue revised guidelines for the RVR of all remaining
employees designed to eliminate subjective biases from decision processes.
• The Lab will conduct annual pay, promotion,
and rank equity studies to identify any disparities between male and female
employees. If the studies show statistically significant disparities based on
gender, the Lab will determine the reason for the disparity and either correct
the problem or document the non-discriminatory reasons for the disparity. The
studies will be shared with the attorneys for the class, who may use such
information to show the Court that the Lab is not complying with the
• The Lab will develop and implement a
written plan to promote equal opportunity for women in obtaining desirable job
• Lab managers and supervisors will be
required to receive training on compliance with the settlement agreement;
compliance with federal, state, and Lab prohibitions against discrimination
and retaliation; diversity; and recognizing and avoiding the influence of
stereotyping in the making of personnel decisions.
• Annual performance evaluations of Lab
managers and supervisors will include evaluations of their ranking and
performance evaluation skills and compliance with equal employment opportunity
In addition to these major reforms, the Lab will
pay $9.7 million in damages to the class members, pay an additional $80,000 to
the seven representative plaintiffs, and increase the base salary of all class
members by 1%, with the increase totaling about $850,000 in the first year
alone. The Lab will also pay plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys’ fees, with
the final figure to be based on actual time worked and expenses incurred.
recognition that equal
work deserves equal
pay and equal promotional
opportunities is long overdue."
“This agreement not only compensates victims of
past discrimination, it also makes sweeping reforms to help level the playing
field for women at the Lab now and in the future,” said TLPJ Staff Attorney
Victoria Ni, co-counsel in the case. “The Lab’s recognition that equal work
deserves equal pay and equal promotional opportunities is long overdue.”
The plaintiffs filed suit only after trying for
more than two decades to persuade the Lab’s management to recognize and
correct pervasive and systemic discrimination against women at the Lab.
“Women working at a first-class national
laboratory will no longer be treated as second-class citizens,” said The TLPJ
Foundation’s President Gary Gwilliam of Oakland’s Gwilliam,
Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer, co-counsel in the case. “The women
in this case who fought so long for equal opportunity are real heroes to us all.”
“This settlement will help ensure fair
treatment and compensation for all Lab employees,” said plaintiffs’
co-counsel Todd Schneider of San Francisco’s Schneider
& Wallace. “The employees, the Lab, and our nation will benefit.”
In addition to Sturdevant, Ni, Gwilliam, and Schneider, the plaintiffs’ legal
team includes Mark Johnson and Karen Hindin of The Sturdevant Law Firm; TLPJ
Executive Director Arthur H. Bryant; and Guy Wallace of Schneider & Wallace.
More information about and key briefs in the Singleton case are posted on
TLPJ’s website, www.tlpj.org.