Qualcomm agrees to pay $19.5M to settle federal class-action lawsuit

Posted at 1:22 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-26 16:37:50-04

SAN DIEGO - San Diego-based Qualcomm agreed to pay $19.5 million and take other steps to settle a federal gender discrimination class-action lawsuit involving around 3,300 women, a law firm announced Tuesday.

The mobile technology company will retain two independent consultants who will assess Qualcomm's policies and practices and issue recommendations designed to make it a more equitable workplace for women, according to the Sanford Heisler law firm.

Qualcomm also agreed to appoint an internal compliance official who, following the recommendations of the independent consultants, will ensure the company implements and sticks to the terms of the settlement agreement.

The deal, which still requires court approval, also calls for Qualcomm to invest in leadership development initiatives, educate employees on non-discrimination policies and revamp complaint procedures.

A Qualcomm statement acknowledges the settlement and says the company 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," the statement said.

David Sanford, chairman of Sanford Heisler and lead plaintiff's counsel, said it's common knowledge that women in so-called STEM fields like engineering 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," Sanford said.

"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," he said. "Qualcomm is a great company that has now become even greater."

The settlement was reached during mediation sessions, following analysis of employment and payroll data, and many months of negotiations, the lawyer said.