Qualcomm Settles $19.5M Gender Bias Suit

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Qualcomm dodged a gender discrimination class action Tuesday by agreeing to pay $19.5 million to 3,300 female STEM employees who claim they were denied promotions and equal pay.
     The suit was brought by Dandan Pan, Wei Shi, Laura Paquin, Blanche Mutulich, Connie Jacobson, Carrie Haluza and Carolina Dealy on behalf of thousands of other Qualcomm employees who claim the company engaged in gender discrimination through pay, raises, job assignments and placement.
     The women also claim Qualcomm discriminated against them based on pregnancy and childbirth, in violation of California family leave laws. The women cited internal reports from Qualcomm which show women hold less than 15 percent of what the company describes as “senior leadership positions,” in pointing out the systemic ways female employees were discriminated against.
     The class is represented by well-known class action law firm Sanford Heisler.
     Both parties conducted an extensive analysis of Qualcomm’s employment and payroll data and hired nationally renowned labor economists to identify and document specific steps Qualcomm could take to make “meaningful enhancements” to its employment practices, according to Sanford Heisler.
     Meeting in April and June for pre-suit settlement negotiations before mediator David Rotman, both parties agreed all women who worked in “covered positions” from Dec. 4, 2012, through the date of the order granting preliminary approval would be eligible to participate in the class. Eligible employees must have worked in salaried exempt or non-exempt positions and the settlement does not apply to interns, temporary or contract workers and a host of divisions and departments within the company including public relations and sales.
     As part of the settlement process, the plaintiffs were required to file a class complaint and move for preliminary approval of the agreement in Federal Court.
     In addition to the hefty settlement, the agreement requires Qualcomm to enact extensive internal changes including hiring two independent consultants who specialize in “industrial organizational psychology.” The consultants will assess the company’s policies and practices and make recommendations of changes Qualcomm should make in order to make the company a more equitable workplace for women, according to the agreement.
     An internal compliance officer will also be hired to ensure the continued compliance with the terms of the settlement.
     Among the structural changes Qualcomm will make are investing in leadership development initiatives and educating employees on non-discrimination policies, to revamping the company’s complaint procedures, according to Sanford Heisler.
     Qualcomm denies all claims of wrongdoing, according to the agreement. In an email, the company’s vice president of public affairs Christine Trimble said the company elected to settle despite “strong defenses” to the lawsuit.
     “Qualcomm is committed to treating its employees fairly and equitably. While we have strong defenses to the claims, we elected to focus on continuing to make meaningful enhancements to our internal programs and processes that drive equity and a diverse and inclusive workforce which are values that we share and embrace. The settlement is still subject to court approval so we cannot comment further,” Trimble said.

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