A massive California sex discrimination case sees the plaintiffs’ attorneys take home nearly half the $18 million agreed in settlement – $8.2 million to be precise. The lab itself paid $12 million in legal costs. University of California regents agreed Wednesday to pay $9.7 million in damages to 3,200 past and present female workers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — the largest such agreement in lab history.

Filed in 1998, the case alleged that women were paid less and promoted less often than their male colleagues at the UC-run lab. The agreement is one of several payouts the university has announced in recent months, amid criticism that it spends too much on litigation and retaliates against whistleblowers.

“You don’t enter into a settlement agreement that involves 3,200 women … unless you have problems,” said James Sturdevant, the lead plaintiffs attorney. He credited the leadership of the lab’s new director, Michael Anastasio, for helping to resolve the case. “This will dramatically change how they pay and promote women at the lab,” Sturdevant said.

While the plaintiffs say the lab is biased, “we continue to feel that this is not the case,” said spokeswoman Susan Houghton.

The deal includes $9.7 million to be divided among 3,200 class members and $80,000 that will be divided among seven name plaintiffs.

Plus, the university will pay up to $8.2 million in attorney fees to the four firms that represented the plaintiffs: The Sturdevant Law Firm in San Francisco; Oakland, Calif.’s Trial Lawyers For Public Justice; Oakland’s Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer; and San Francisco’s Schneider & Wallace.

The lab must also change its employee evaluation process, which, the plaintiffs say, allowed gender stereotypes to sway salary and promotion decisions. Now, more emphasis will be placed on employees’ job classification and performance.

The lab will also conduct annual studies — which will be shared with the plaintiffs attorneys — to monitor male and female employee pay. All 2,500 of the lab’s current female workers will get a 1 percent raise in base pay, which, plaintiffs attorneys say, will cost the lab $850,000 during the first year the agreement is in place. Lab managers will undergo training about the agreement as well as about retaliation, gender bias and diversity.

Scroll to Top