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Western Digital $7.75 Million Sex Bias Pact Gets Final Approval

Jan. 6, 2021, 5:19 PM

Western Digital Corp.'s $7.75 million settlement of a class lawsuit, providing monetary relief to 1,863 female employees who allegedly experienced sex discrimination in pay, promotions, and job placements, received final approval from the Central District of California.

Judge Josephine L. Staton had previously granted preliminary approval of the agreement, which resolves a May 2019 lawsuit by Yunghui Chen. Chen accused the company of fostering a male-dominated corporate culture, including a “tap-on-the-shoulder” promotion process tainted with anti-woman bias and a “forced ranking” system for incentive pay that discriminates based on sex.

The proposed settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California the same day as the lawsuit.

Under the agreement, an estimated $4,811,667 of the total settlement amount will be used to compensate the members of two sub-classes. One subclass includes all California female employees of Western Digital and related companies who held “indirect labor” positions at or below that senior manager level at any time after Nov. 1, 2012; the other is comprised of all female employees elsewhere in the U.S. who held such jobs at any time after Nov. 1, 2013.

Staton gave her final blessing to those terms on Tuesday. But the judge adjusted other parts of the settlement from what she had preliminarily approved April 3.

Class counsel will receive $2,382,510 in attorneys’ fees and $123,499 in litigation costs, and the settlement administrator will receive $97,324 in costs.

The court also only awarded Chen $18,000 for representing the class. That was less than the $50,000 preliminarily approved as well as the $30,000 sought in the final approval motion.

“Chen spent 174 hours on this matter over the past four years,” Staton said. She attended mediation but didn’t “sit for a deposition or undertake inordinate reputational or monetary risk,” the judge said.

It is estimated the class members will receive individual payments averaging $3,615.

Any money left in the settlement fund after all claims and awards have been paid will be distributed to Community Legal Aid SoCal and Legal Aid at Work.

The settlement, which includes “sweeping programmatic” relief, is fair and reasonable, Staton said.

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, Medina Orthwein LLP, and Desai Law Firm PC represented the women. O’Melveny and Meyers represented Western Digital.

The case is Chen v. Western Digital Corp., C.D. Cal., No. 8:19-cv-00909, final approval of class settlement 1/5/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com