OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A federal judge who found Washington state guilty of discrimination against women workers gave preliminary approval Friday to a $482 million settlement in the comparable worth case.
U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner issued an order finding that the settlement merits consideration and set an April 11 hearing to consider any objections to the plan.
'That preliminary approval is subject to any objections that come in,' cautioned Christine Gregoire, deputy state attorney general.
One legislative critic of the agreement, Rep. Bob Williams, R-Longview, said he may file an objection.
Under the agreement, about 35,000 state workers, 71 percent of them women, will start getting pay raises beginning April 1. The estimated cost of the raises is $482 million through mid-1992, when comparable worth would be fully implemented.
In 1983, Tanner ruled that the state willfully discriminated against female state employees, citing a state study that women are paid less than men for jobs considered different but of comparable levels of skill and responsibility.
The suit was brought by a public employees' union and drew national attention as well as a number of similar suits around the country.
Tanner's ruling was overturned last fall by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the union was appealing the case.
Last year the Legislature appropriated $42 million as an initiative to settle the lawsuit before it reached the appellate courts, in accordance with a 1983 law that mandated jobs held predominantly by women be paid on a comparable basis with jobs held mostly by men.