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Tech firm paying up to prevent gender bias lawsuit

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Qualcomm Inc. has agreed to pay $19.5 million to settle a planned gender discrimination lawsuit that was to be filed on behalf of women working in science, technology, engineering and math-related positons.

The settlement was reached before formal initiation of the lawsuit, and without in-court litigation activity, according to court papers in the case, which was filed on behalf of 3,290 female workers at San Diego-based Qualcomm by plaintiff law firm New York-based Sanford Heisler L.L.P.

The settlement is subject to the approval of the U.S. District Court in San Diego.

Under terms of the settlement, in addition to making the $19.5 million payment to settle all class action claims in the case, Qualcomm will “institute significant changes in its policies and practices to help eliminate gender disparities and foster equal employment opportunity going forward,” said the law firm, in a statement.

“Throughout their employment and increasingly in recent years, plaintiffs experienced and witnessed systemic gender discrimination as a result of common employment policies, practices, and procedures concerning pay and promotion,” according to the motion submitted by Sanford Heisler for the settlement’s approval.

“As a result of these policies and practices, plaintiffs were paid less and promoted more slowly than similarly-situated men who worked beside them. The discrimination was especially acute for working mothers, who faced additional discrimination on the basis of caregiver responsibilities,” said the motion.

David Sanford, chairman of Sanford Heisler and lead counsel for the plaintiff class, said in a statement, “It is common knowledge that women in STEM and other related fields 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.”

Qualcomm said in a statement it 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.”