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BIAS SETTLEMENT DEALT A SETBACK

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NEW YORK -- A federal judge recently denied final approval of Salomon Smith Barney Inc.'s sexual discrimination and harassment settlement reached last November with a group of current and former women securities brokers.

Judge Constance Baker Motley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said the $15 million diversity program hammered out in the settlement was too vague and inadequate. She did, however, approve of the proposed alternative dispute resolution program detailed in the settlement agreement (BI, Nov. 24, 1997).

Mary Stowell, a partner in the Chicago law firm of Stowell & Friedman Ltd., represents the group of 25 current and former Smith Barney employees who allege a pattern of unequal treatment of women at the firm.

Ms. Stowell said that attorneys from both sides have since come together and written an addendum addressing the judge's concerns and will submit the addendum to Judge Motley early this week.

"We're hoping to get on with this very, very soon," said Ms. Stowell, declining to elaborate further on the addendum.

"Despite this temporary setback, we are pleased that the Court endorsed all features of the settlement relating to the establishment of a dispute resolution process for handling all gender- based and other employment claims," Salomon Smith Barney said in a statement to its employees.

The securities broker said that it hopes the proposed amendment addressing the court's concerns over the diversity programs will lead to final approval of the settlement.

In the meantime, the Securities and Exchange Commission last week approved the year-old proposal from the National Assn. of Securities Dealers that will end mandatory arbitration of complaints of on-the-job discrimination and harassment for securities brokers.

In other employment practice settlement news, U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade in Peoria, Ill., last month approved the $34 million settlement between Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc. and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The settlement ends the 2-year-old class-action sexual harassment suit brought on behalf of more than 300 women who alleged widespread sexual harassment at Mitsubishi's Normal, Ill., plant.