DETROIT (AP) An analysis of Ford Motor Co. statistics that was done for plaintiffs suing the automaker shows that older workers received lower grades on their evaluations than younger workers, and fewer women than men received the lowest grades.

Ford faces two class action and seven individual lawsuits by current and former managers. The plaintiffs claim they were denied promotions or were terminated because of their age or for being white males.

Attorney James Fett, who is representing several Ford employees in the suits, hired statistician Malcolm Cohen to do the analysis.

Two charts that Cohen put together show that as the age of Ford employees increased, the percentage of lower grades also rose. Cohen, the president of Employee Research Corporation of Ann Arbor, did not return a message yesterday seeking comment about his methodology.

“These raw numbers are meaningless and in fact the court acknowledged when it ruled the statistics could be released that the raw data in question are open to question and spinning,” said Ford spokeswoman Anne Gattari.

Under the Performance Management Process, employees were graded A, B, or C. Those receiving a C could lose bonuses and raises, and two consecutive C grades could mean dismissal. Initially, at least 10 percent of employees were to be graded C, but that later was lowered to 5 percent.

In July, Ford said it would discontinue its 18-month-old system of evaluating about 18,000 managers. On July 10 the letter system was replaced by three designations: top achiever, achiever, and improvement required. There would also be no fixed percentages for the number of employees receiving each classification.

Cohen”s first chart shows 0.9 percent of those under the age of 30 received a C, the lowest grade. As the age of the employees evaluated rises, so does the number of workers receiving C”s. Two percent of those age 35-39, 6.2 percent of those 45-49, and 28.2 percent of workers age 60-64 received C”s, according to the analysis.

Another chart shows 3.8 percent of women evaluated in 2000 received C grades, while C grades were given to 7.8 percent of the men.

Gattari said the company is continuing to look at the figures and is confident its evaluation system is fair and unbiased.

“These people have very different job responsibilities and work histories. You have to consider all these variables before you get a truthful analysis,” she said.

A judge granted plaintiffs the right to the Ford statistics on Oct. 26 when attorneys argued the workers needed them to make a well-considered decision on whether to accept voluntary buyouts and retirement packages offered as part of Ford”s move to reduce its salaried work force.

The statistics were released Yesterday as talks aimed at settling the suits between Ford and plaintiffs” attorneys, other than Fett, broke down, according to a source requesting anonymity.

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