Aerospace giant Boeing has agreed to pay $72.5m (£42.3m) to thousands of women to settle a class-action lawsuit which alleged that they were the victims of gender discrimination.
The payout is the maximum allowed under a settlement agreement that won preliminary approval from a federal judge last year.
Under the deal, Boeing admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to change its hiring, pay and promotion practices, and the way it investigates employee complaints.
If the plaintiffs’ motion for speedy payment is granted, payment could be made to almost 18,000 current and former female Boeing employees by Christmas.
Otherwise, the firm has until 14 January to pay a court administrator.
The exact amounts are confidential, but range from $500 to $26,000 (£292 to £15,200). About $15m (£8.7m) will be deducted from the total settlement to cover legal costs.
“We’ve moved ahead on numerous fronts in making improvements to our work environment,” said a spokesman at Boeing’s corporate headquarters in Chicago.
The lawsuit, filed in 2000, alleged a pattern of discrimination at Boeing.
According to company documents obtained by the plaintiffs, women typically earned $1,000 to $2,000 less each year than men doing similar jobs – a disparity magnified over time by the company’s policy of calculating pay rises based on an employee’s salary.
Another discrimination lawsuit, filed on behalf of 15,000 black Boeing employees, is scheduled to go to trial in federal court in early December.