The General Electric Co. has agreed to spend $31.9 million over the next five years to settle a federal government complaint that the giant electronics firm discriminated against women and minority employes.
GE's "conciliation agreement" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ends the most complicated case ever considered by the agency, an EEOC spokesman said, because of the company's size and diversity. The settlement was also one of the largest in the commission's history.
Frank P. Doyle, GE's vice president for corporate employe relations, said the company agreed to the settlement "rather than becoming engaged in lengthy adversary proceedings." The firm admitted no wrongdoing in making the settlement.
The primary feature of the settlement is a $10.6 million package set aside for "promotion incentive" bonuses.
Minorities and women who are promoted to certain jobs will receive extra lump-sum payments of up to $800 to make up for past discrimination, an EEOC official said.
Another $9.9 million will be spent for training programs for minorities and women, and $7.4 million - including $2.7 million for back pay - will go for new wage rates. Another $3 million will be used to implement an affirmative action plan for recruiting and promoting, and $1 million will resolve pending charges of bias.
The agreement the EEOC approved yesterday grew out of charges filed in 1973 as part of the commission's attack on what it termed systematic discrimination by large manufacturers. General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. still have cases pending against them.
Dave Dillon, one of GE's negotiators with EEOC, said yesterday that the "promotion incentive" plan is designed to encourage minorities and women to apply for jobs they may not have considered until now.
The agreement also includes a provision setting numerical goals for the hiring and promoting of minorities and women in most salaried (office) and all hourly (factory) jobs.
Dillion said the figures have not been determined but will be based on 3 complicated formula taking into account employment patterns in and outside GE. The firm has 263,000 employes.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, head of the EEOC, said in a statement that yesterday's settlement does not prevent individuals from seeking relief on individual grievances. The commission's original complaint against the company, however, was based on indications of widespread discrimination, rather than individual complaints.
EEOC will monitor the company's compliance with terms of the agreement over its five-year term.