Plumbing manufacturer Kohler Corp. has agreed to pay almost $900,000 in back pay to more than 2000 women who were not hired at its Kohler, WI, plant because of their gender. The settlement was reached with the U.S. Labor Dept. According to Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Kohler had an informal practice not to consider women who applied for jobs unless they were at least 5 feet 4 inches tall.

The $886,500 in back pay, benefits and interest covers more than 2000 women who applied at Kohler in 1994 and 1995. They were seeking blue-collar jobs such as machine operators, tub and enamel casters, brass finishers and assemblers that paid between $8 and $12 an hour plus benefits. In addition to the back pay, Kohler will offer jobs to the applicants until 111 have been hired. Kohler will also fund a $108,000 ergonomics study over the next three years to make jobs safer and eliminate unnecessary barriers to women and will train management and human resources staff to carry out the settlement.

Kohler has $27 million in contracts to supply back-up and portable power generators to the General Services Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. As a federal contractor the company is prohibited from employment discrimination.

“We are very pleased with all of the positives that have resulted from this case action,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Shirley Wilcher. “The steps that the Kohler Company has committed to take, not only in providing financial remedy but in correcting the policies and practices that gave rise to the problems uncovered here, will bring them into compliance with all of the regulatory requirements of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.”