Walgreen settles bias lawsuit for $20m

Accused of denying promotions based on race, Walgreen is to pay $20 million.

Francine Knowles for Sun Times reports: Walgreen Co. has agreed to pay $20 million to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination lawsuit that accused it of assigning black workers to low-performing stores in black communities and denying managers and professionals promotions based on race.

The agreement with the nation’s biggest drugstore chain would provide payment to an estimated 10,000 class members and must be approved by a district judge.

It prohibits store assignments based on race and requires the Deerfield-based company to be monitored for five years and hire a consultant to review its employment processes, according to court documents.

The settlement is the largest for a race discrimination case since a June 2005 agreement with Ford Motor Co. for $8.5 million, EEOC spokesman David Grinberg said.

”This settlement should remind corporate America and all employers that race discrimination is still a problem in the workplace,” Grinberg said.

Walgreen did not admit wrongdoing. The company is an industry leader when it comes to the employment and promotion of black managers and pharmacists, contended company spokeswoman Carol Hively. She noted more than 17 percent of its store managers and district managers are African American, compared with an industry average of 9 percent. Fifteen percent of Walgreen’s pharmacists are black, compared with an industry average of 10 percent, she said.

“We’re happy to move on, but we feel we have long offered opportunities to all employees,” she said.

The EEOC suit, filed in March, followed a separate suit alleging similar claims filed in June 2005 on behalf of 14 black current and former Walgreen workers. The two cases were consolidated last April.