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CINCINNATI - Sara Lee Corp. today said it has settled a federal discrimination suit alleging racial discrimination at a food processing plant in Philadelphia for $3.5 million.
Civil actions were filed on behalf of 139 individual African-American former employees.
Specific terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The settlement of all 140 claims included a payment of $3.5 million together with a complete dismissal of the retaliation class action complaint.
An initial lawsuit filed by nine employees sought class action status alleging past acts of racial discrimination and hostile work environment conditions. Class certification was denied twice before the plaintiffs then individually filed separate lawsuits.
While these cases were pending, the plant was closed, Sara Lee said. This prompted further litigation including a new class action complaint alleging retaliation in the decision to close the plant.
William A. Geoppinger, CEO of Sara Lee Foods, said, "Sara Lee Foods is committed to a workplace free from any form of harassment or discrimination." Geoppinger emphasized that the decision to close the Philadelphia plant was based purely on business factors, and that the company would not tolerate harassment of any kind.