KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Sprint Nextel will pay $57 million to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming it targeted older workers during layoffs, the wireless company said Friday.
The settlement, included in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas, would cover 1,697 former employees who were laid off between Oct. 1, 2001, and March 31, 2003.
Sprint Nextel Corp., based in Reston, Va., with operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., acknowledges no wrongdoing in the settlement.
‘We elected to settle this case so that we can continue to focus on the business,’ said company spokesman Matt Sullivan.
It’s the company’s second settlement on age discrimination claims in a year. Sprint agreed last May to pay $5.5 million to 462 former employees in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Atlanta.
Under the newest agreement, 11 people who have served as lead plaintiffs in the case would receive an average of $155,000 each.
The plaintiff’s attorneys would receive $19.4 million in fees, plus an additional $1.65 million to cover the process of confirming the settlement.
The remaining 1,686 plaintiffs would split the leftover $34.3 million, or an average of $20,332 apiece.
‘Because of the risks involved, this is a way to allow the folks we represent to resolve this and move forward with their careers,’ said Dennis Egan, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum still must decide if the agreement is reasonable. If so, notices of the proposed settlement would go to plaintiffs and a final hearing would be scheduled to hear concerns from plaintiffs and potentially approve the agreement.
The suit, filed in 2003, claims then-Sprint Corp. illegally moved employees 40 and over to positions that were then eliminated as part of the company’s downsizing efforts.
Federal age discrimination laws forbid employers from targeting older workers disproportionately during layoffs.
In the settlement, both sides said the case has been a paperwork nightmare, generating more than 1.5 million pages of documents and 20 discs of computerized records and 500 depositions.
Shares of Sprint Nextel were up 26 cents at $20.78 in afternoon trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, where they have traded in a 52-week range of $15.92 to $23.21.
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