Deerfield, Ill. A federal judge has signed off on Walgreen Co.'s plan to pay $24 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging racial bias at the nation's largest drug store chain.
Roughly 10,000 past and present black Walgreen workers will split $20 million under the consent decree given final approval Monday by U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy.
Attorneys involved in the case will share about $4.5 million in fees separate from the settlement amount.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in March of last year, accusing the retailer of discriminating against thousands of black workers in hiring and assignment decisions.
The decree also requires Walgreen to hire outside consultants to review and make recommendations about their employment practices, including standardized, nondiscriminatory promotion and store assignments, procedures and promotional benchmarks.
Walgreen, which still says it did nothing wrong, began putting the decree's requirements in place last July when Murphy gave the settlement deal tentative approval, Walgreen spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said.
"We do not tolerate discrimination in any aspect of employment," Bruce said Tuesday, insisting "We're the drug store industry leader when it comes to the employment and promotion of African-American managers and pharmacists."
The EEOC and a California-based law firm will monitor Walgreen's compliance with the decree, with Murphy keeping jurisdiction over the matter for five years, the EEOC said in a statement.
The settlement resolves the EEOC's litigation and a private class-action lawsuit filed in June 2005 on behalf of 14 current and former black Walgreen workers. Those cases were consolidated in April of last year.
The lawsuits allege Walgreen assigns black managers, management trainees and pharmacists to low-performing stores and to stores in black communities, and denies them promotions based on race.