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Qualcomm Agrees To Pay $19.5M In Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Qualcomm Agrees To Pay $19.5M In Gender Discrimination Lawsuit
Qualcomm Agrees To Pay $19.5M In Gender Discrimination Lawsuit GUEST: Jill Sanford, trial lawyer, Sanford Heisler

David Sanford has agreed to a $19.5 million settlement in a transaction lawsuit. Women claimed they were denied equal pay and promotions at the company . It also stipulate that Qualcomm change its programs to better promote female employees. In a statement about the settlement, Qualcomm denied the wrongdoing. Joining me to talk about the impact of the case is Jill Sanford, trial lawyer, Sanford Heisler , who represented the plaintiffs in court. Welcome. Thanks for having me. Reporter: Elected the Qualcomm employees share with you we what our clients shared with us because that would violate the attorney-client privilege.. But our clients have been at Qualcomm at -- for a long time. They have over 100 years combined experience. What they shared with us were in general experiences of discrimination that they perceived in their rates of pay, rates of promotion, including after maternity leave, pregnancy and caregiving. And those disparities that they described, ultimately, were confirmed for us in extensive analysis of data fight -- data that Qualcomm provided to us. What does the lawsuit alleged? It alleges a number of causes of action, two our federal and four our state causes of action. All of them have to do with discriminatory practices and policies but under different laws. It alleges discrimination under title VII of the Civil Rights Act, for example, the federal equal pay act, California's equal pay act, California's fair housing act, and the California private attorney general act. The allegations, in general, are that Qualcomm maintained policies and practices that allow discrimination and that resulted in discrimination in pay and promotion. How close were you two going to drought? We were not close at all two going to trial in this case. Because of a very, very unusual set of events. We entered into negotiations with David Sanford before we filed the lawsuit. So no formal litigation processes were undertaken in this matter until yesterday when we filed both the complaint and the request but both sides for preliminary approval of the settlement. That is extraordinary and it speaks to Qualcomm's good faith in the situation to alleviating the discrimination that was pointed out to them. In response to the settlement, Qualcomm has said while we have strong defenses to the claims, we elected to focus to continuing to make meaningful enhancements to our internal programs, etc., etc. I think it is difficult for nonlawyers to understand why a company that says it did nothing wrong with pay almost $20 million to settle. Might it have cost them more if they went to trial? I think it very well might have caused a more if they went to trial. My sense in this case is that, just the cost of defense was not the driving motivation. You would have to Qualcomm -- speak to Qualcomm about their motivation. But our experience while negotiating with them and while our economists did reach differing conclusions based on analysis of the same data, Qualcomm looked at the analyses of both sides and took our experts' analysis very seriously. And Qualcomm listened to our client. And I mean they listened in person to our clients. And I think they took very seriously what they heard. That seemed to be a very important factor in the negotiations. Certainly, there was risk for Qualcomm. While they believe -- don't believe they did anything wrong, they could be wrong. I think that risk is always something that people consider. Aside from the monetary, nation -- compensation, Qualcomm has to take -- take steps to better promote female employees. Tell us about that. We engaged in a lengthy conversation with Qualcomm about how it could change it internal practices and policies to avoid this treatment of women going forward at the company. And we brainstormed a lot of ideas about how to make that happen. All of that brainstorming resulted in a documented agreement. It basically says, in addition to hiring and internal compliance official who will look at all of Qualcomm's policy and practices and assess them for discriminatory loopholes and issues, in addition to those things it does provide guidelines so that women as a goal will be promoted at the same rate that they are represented in their job family. How significant do you see the settlement is and what you think the potential impact is to the tech industry as a whole? It is very important, first of all, for the women at Qualcomm who will receive compensation and a better working environment. It is also very, very important for the women will work at Qualcomm in the future and they will benefit from these relief changes and from Qualcomm's accountability. In terms of the tech sector in general, I think it is significant because Qualcomm is positioning itself to be a leader in gender equality. I have been speaking with Jill Sanford, trial lawyer, Sanford Heisler. Hinkie so much. You're welcome. Take you for having me.

San Diego-based Qualcomm agreed to pay $19.5 million and take other steps to settle a federal gender discrimination class-action lawsuit involving around 3,300 women, a law firm announced Tuesday.

The mobile technology company will retain two independent consultants who will assess Qualcomm's policies and practices and issue recommendations designed to make it a more equitable workplace for women, according to the Sanford Heisler law firm.

Qualcomm also agreed to appoint an internal compliance official who, following the recommendations of the independent consultants, will ensure the company implements and sticks to the terms of the settlement agreement.

The deal, which still requires court approval, also calls for Qualcomm to invest in leadership development initiatives, educate employees on non-discrimination policies and revamp complaint procedures.

A Qualcomm statement acknowledges the settlement and says the company 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 statement said.

David Sanford, chairman of Sanford Heisler and lead plaintiff's counsel, said it's common knowledge that women in so-called STEM fields like engineering face "persistent discrimination" in pay and promotions.

"This settlement represents a giant leap forward toward leveling the playing field and can serve as a model of best practices for other technology companies," Sanford said.

"The fact that the settlement has produced such an excellent result without litigation is a tribute to the good faith Qualcomm and the plaintiffs exemplified throughout the settlement process," he said. "Qualcomm is a great company that has now become even greater."

The settlement was reached during mediation sessions, following analysis of employment and payroll data, and many months of negotiations, the lawyer said.