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Bias Suit Award Is Overturned

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From Associated Press

A federal appeals court overturned a $2.5-million award in a discrimination lawsuit filed by three former American executives of Japanese-owned Quasar Co. The court said they were fired because of their citizenship, not their national origin.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the men were discriminated against but said commercial treaties between the United States and Japan allow companies based in either country to put their own citizens in key positions at foreign subsidiaries.

It ordered a new trial on an age discrimination claim for two of the plaintiffs.

The case has attracted widespread interest since it began in 1987 because it raised questions about U.S. civil-rights law enforcement in an age of global business.

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The ruling is significant because it allows U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies to cite the treaty rights of their parent company in assigning people to top management jobs, Quasar lawyer Paul Bressan said Thursday in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

Bressan said American companies are entitled to the same rights under bilateral commercial treaties with Japan and other nations. The appeals court made that point in its ruling Tuesday.

“There are Americans employed abroad by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies who, but for the treaty, would lose their jobs to foreign nationals,” wrote Judge Richard Posner, who authored the opinion for the three-member panel.

Michael Reiter, the lawyer for plaintiffs John Fortino, F. William Schulz and Carl Meyers, said Thursday that he had not read the appellate ruling and could not comment.

Quasar, based in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village, is a sales subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, the U.S. arm of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

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