Jon Campisi Jul. 9, 2012, 9:01am

A federal judge in Philadelphia has approved a $1.99 million settlement agreement in a

nine-year-old class action case against railroad giant Amtrak.

U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody’s final approval follows a June 25 fairness hearing in the matter between Sharyn Stagi, Winifred Ladd and those similarly situated against the National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as Amtrak.

The class initiated litigation against Amtrak back in October 2003 over allegations that company policy requires all union employees to have one year of service in their current position before they could be considered for promotion.

The claim was that the policy had a disparate impact on female union employees, a violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

The complaint had alleged that the employment policy prohibited newly-hired union employees, including experienced managerial employees such as the plaintiffs, who have moved into union positions from management as a result of layoffs, from bidding for management positions during the first calendar year that the employee occupied such a position.

“This prohibition burdens female employees more than men, given the fact they are more vulnerable to layoff and reassignment to union positions, and thus has the effect of excluding a disproportionate number of otherwise qualified female employees from bidding for and filling management positions,” the original complaint read. “There is no business justification for Defendant’s policy.”

Stagi, the original plaintiff who initiated the case, is a Levittown, Pa. woman who was first hired by Amtrak back in 1973 as a union employee, and who was later promoted to a non-union management position until she was laid off in the spring of 2002.

Levittown is located just outside of Philadelphia.

In her July 3 order, Brody, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also approved the awarding of $1,219,467.79 in plaintiffs’ attorney fees and $180,532.08 in litigation and settlement administration expenses.

Each named plaintiff in the case will receive a settlement of $50,000 for a total of $1,990,000 for the class.

The settlement is worth an estimated $2.5 million over the next four years and the class is currently estimated to have about 5,383 members, the judicial memorandum states.

The settlement includes injunctive relief and means the elimination of Amtrak’s so-called “One Year Rule,” which, the order says, will also benefit future, unionized Amtrak employees.

The plaintiffs in the case were represented by the firms Sandals & Associates and Kolman Ely, P.C.

The litigation took nine years to play out, with attorneys devoting more than 3,000 hours to the case, according to the judicial order.

“Such a large number of hours represents a substantial commitment to this litigation and weighs in favor of approving the [counsel] fee request,” Brody wrote. “The record of this litigation also indicates that the time spent by class counsel was necessary for the successful prosecution of this case considering both the complexity involved and the defense mounted by Amtrak.”

The settlement approval puts an end to the litigation, dismissing the matter with prejudice.

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