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Gender discrimination claim against Norfolk Southern settles for $60K

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has agreed to pay $60,000 to an employee who said she was discriminated against because of her gender.

Kathryn Class said she was unfairly removed from training to become a yardmaster because she would have become a supervisor to her husband, although other employees supervised their family members.

After filing a motion for summary judgment in February, settlement talks started in May and the two sides came to an agreement June 9.

Norfolk Southern decided it wanted to resolve the action “without the time and expense of continued litigation,” according to a consent decree approved by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Class will receive $40,000 in back pay and $20,000 in non-pecuniary compensatory damages.

Debra Lawrence with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who represented Class, did not respond to requests for comment. Norfolk Southern’s lawyer, John Anthony Goodman with Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. in Washington, D.C., also did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the consent decree, the company will offer Class the next vacant yardmaster position at the Baltimore terminal that it seeks to fill by any method other than seniority, between June 2011 and June 2015, assuming she is an employee of the company at that time.

If Class passes her yardmaster training, the company said it will make a good-faith effort to convince any union representing yardmasters in Baltimore that Class’ seniority should date back to June 11, 2007, the date she began training as a yardmaster for the second time, although she never finished that training.

Class worked for Consolidated Rail Corp. until 1999, when she became an employee of Norfolk Southern, which acquired parts of her old company. Her husband, John G. Class, also worked for Norfolk Southern as a conductor at the Baltimore yard.

According to court documents filed by Norfolk Southern, Class said she was approached by a supervisor to train as a yardmaster. In May 2005, she began training and was selected to become yardmaster from a pool of five employees, including Roosevelt Johnson.

On June 1, 2005, Johnson, a black man, contacted the company’s equal employment opportunity office to complain that Class’ selection showed racism and favoritism because she was white and because Class’s husband worked in the yard and was a hunting buddy of the district superintendent.

The office investigated and found that Johnson’s race claim had no merit, but the favoritism claim triggered the company’s corporate policy, which prohibits individuals “to directly or indirectly supervise or to be supervised by a relative.”

The company decided Class could not be a yardmaster when her husband was a conductor, because her job would be to control the assignments of conductors in the yard, and yardmasters can invoke disciplinary hearings against conductors.

Class filed an internal complaint that she was being discriminated against because she was female. The company explained its policy to her and told her she could apply for training at another yard, but Class opted to remain in Baltimore as a clerk.

On April 30, 2007, Norfolk Southern announced that it was abolishing nine clerical jobs at the Baltimore facility; Class was offered a similar position in Roanoke, Va., but she declined the offer.

Instead, she asked the employment office again if she could train to be a yardmaster, noting other related employees within the company whom she thought violated the policy.

The office told her she could not be a yardmaster in Baltimore. It said that the other family members working together did not violate the policy because of the seniority they held under their collective bargaining agreements.

Despite the company’s denial of her request, Class asked for and got permission from the terminal superintendent, who had been on the job for a year, to begin training on June 11, 2007. The employment office received a complaint about Class’ training on June 15, 2007, and she was removed from training.

In July 2007, she successfully bid for a position as a clerk in Norfolk Southern’s Allentown, Pa., office. In August 2007, Class filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The consent decree applies to Norfolk Southern’s more than 1,200 facilities and is in effect until June 15, 2014.

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION V. NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY CO.

Court:

U.S. District Court (Baltimore)

Case No.:

0902566

Dates:

Incident: April 2005 – June 2007

Suit filed: Sept. 29, 2009

Settlement: June 9, 2011

Plaintiffs’ Attorney:

Debra Michele Lawrence of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Defendant’s Attorney:

John Anthony Goodman of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney P.C.

Counts:

Discrimination

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