Qualcomm Agrees to $19.5M Gender Bias Class-Action Settlement

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Qualcomm Inc. agreed to a $19.5 million deal settling claims brought on behalf of about 3,300 female workers who allegedly faced discrimination in pay and promotion decisions, according to documents filed on July 26 with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

"The settlement requires Qualcomm to institute comprehensive programmatic relief, which will ensure that female employees working, for example, in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] and related positions will enjoy equal job opportunities at the company," said a statement from law firm Sanford Heisler, which represented the employees.

The parties reached the agreement before the lawsuit was filed, but a court must still approve the terms.

"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," said David Sanford, the lead attorney for the employees.

"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," a Qualcomm spokesperson said in a statement.

STEM Job Inequities Alleged

San Diego-based Qualcomm develops wireless telecommunications products and services. The seven female employees who brought the class-action lawsuit alleged that the company and its affiliates discriminated against women in STEM positions.

They asserted claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act and the California Labor Code.

Qualcomm's EEO-1 reports show that only 15 percent of its senior leadership positions are held by women, the plaintiffs said. The plaintiffs also claimed that women in STEM positions earned less than their male counterparts.

"This pay and promotion discrimination is exacerbated for women with caregiving responsibilities," according to the complaint. The settlement agreement was announced the day after the complaint was filed.

Settlement Terms

The proposed agreement covers a class of female employees in California who worked for Qualcomm or its subsidiaries at any time since Dec. 4, 2011, and a nationwide class that worked outside of California at any time since Dec. 26, 2014.

If the settlement is ultimately approved by the court, Qualcomm will make a one-time payment of $19.5 million to the settlement administrator.

Class counsel is seeking about $6 million in attorney fees and litigation expenses, as well as $50,000 service awards for each of the seven named plaintiffs.

Qualcomm denied any wrongdoing but said it elected to settle the claims in order to "avoid the burden and expense of continuing litigation."

"The settlement is the culmination of extensive pre-suit analysis of Qualcomm's employment and payroll data, and many months of negotiations," according to Sanford Heisler. 

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