Photo: AP

Chinese auto technicians working for a Ford dealer in New Jersey are set to receive $150,000 in backpay, after the dealer agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The suit accused the dealer, Winner Ford, of paying Chinese technicians lower wages than non-Chinese technicians.

The background of one affected employee in the case was highlighted Monday by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Ping Zhang was five years into his $12-an-hour job at Winner Ford in Cherry Hill, installing prisoner seating, computers, and gun racks into nonemergency vehicles to convert them into cars for police, when he learned something that angered him.

Zhang, who had experience performing electrical work when he joined the dealership in January 2011 and gained more of it on the job, discovered that a new hire, a non-Chinese with little or no electrical or auto-body experience, would be earning $13 an hour. When Zhang started as a new hire with more experience in January 2011, he was paid $9 an hour.

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The EEOC’s case alleged that Winner Ford paid Chinese emergency and accessory installation technicians a lower starting wage and hourly wage as far back as 2010.

“Winner Ford paid starting Chinese EAI technicians up to $3 less per hour than non-Chinese EAI Technicians, even though they did the same work and some of the non-Chinese technicians had less or no relevant experience,” the EEOC said last week.

After employees spoke up about the wage disparity, the EEOC claimed, he was reprimanded and “told that if he sought legal advice, he would be out of the job.”

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The settlement calls for a number of remedies that Winner Ford needs to implement, according to the EEOC. As part of a three-year consent decree, Winner Ford is prohibited from “discriminating based on national origin, including in compensation, or engaging in retaliation,” and it will implement a new anti-discrimination to all current, and prospective, employees.

An attorney for Winner Ford didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but if we hear back, we’ll update the post.

Update (4:15 p.m.): Winner Ford’s attorney sent along the following statement:

The Consent Decree Enter and Signed by the Court and Winner on 11-21-2017 states the following:

1. The EEOC and the Defendant (Winner) desire to resolve this action without the time and expense of continued litigation, and a desire to formulate a plan, to be embodied in a Decree, that will resolve the EEOC’s claims and promote and effectuate the purpose of Title VII.

2. It is understood and agreed by the parties (EEOC and Winner) that there is no admission of or finding of liability on the part of Winner for the conduct alleged in EEOC’s Complaint.

1 and 2 are in the Consent Decree. Winner did not agree with the complaint or any alleged allegations in the Complaint. However an agreement to avoid the cost and time involved with continuing litigation was agreed between the EEOC and Winner.

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