Lincoln Electric cuts deal for hiring discrimination policy

7:06 PM, May 18, 2004   |    comments
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  • At least one victim calls this settlement an insult. She tells our senior political correspondent Tom Beres that she has now been wronged twice. Lincoln Electric is known for those big Christmas bonuses. People want to work there. The parking lot is full and a help wanted sign is out. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans went there to brag about the economy's rebounding because of President Bush's policies. Sherry Johnson-Burkhalter, a single mom with kids, wanted a job at Lincoln. She claims that she applied at least nine times. "After years of applying there I felt sooner or later I was going to get lucky," said Johnson-Burkhalter. But she didn't. They didn't even call her back. Johnson-Burkhalter finally got a letter from Lincoln that may explain why. It told her the Labor Department found alleged disparities in hiring involving women and minorities from July 1996 through March 1998. Johnson-Burkhalter just got another letter telling her she could get $306 and change if she signed away her right to sue. "I'm disgusted, they are just giving you a little piece of something and saying go sit and shut up. The government, they did us a shyesty job," said Johnson-Burkhalter. Johnson-Burkhalter makes $13,000 a year as an aide in a Euclid elementary school. Civil rights lawyer Avery Friedman claims Johnson-Burkhalter and other victims got shortchanged. "They could have referred it to justice, they could have referred it to the EEOC," said Friedman. The company is walking away having to pay pennies on the dollar because the federal agency responsible for enforcing the law never told the victims what they could do. The six-year statute of limitation to sue Lincoln just ran out. Lincoln Electric would not provide an official to take questions on camera. They also would not disclose how many victims there are, how much money's being paid out, and for now the government's keeping everything quiet. A Labor Department spokesman said that everything is confidential until the agreement's fulfilled. Johnson-Burkhalter angry at the government she thought protected her. Lincoln Electric says it has hired some applicants who were discriminated against, but won't say how many. The company says it "remains committed to attracting and maintaining a diverse work force and meets equal opportunity standards of government contractors."

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