Settlement Reached in Rent-A-Center Suits

March 8, 2002 ( - A long-running sex-discrimination battle with the nation's largest rent-to-own company has ended with an agreement by Rent-A-Center to pay more than 5,000 women a total of $47 million and to make widespread institutional changes.

The settlement with the Plano, Texas company has to be approved by attorneys representing the plaintiffs in two separate cases and a federal judge.

According to an the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal anti-discrimination agency, the company also agreed to:

  • offer 10% of open positions during a 15-month period to women who claimed they had been discriminated against,
  • create a human resources department led by a vice-president level executive reporting to President Mitch Fadel or Chief Executive Officer Mark Speese,
  • give the new personnel chief the necessary resources to develop and implement non-discriminatory hiring practices,
  • seek women for its board,
  • produce a videotape featuring Speese and Fadel emphasizing the company’s commitment to fair employment,
  • hire a neutral third-party consultant to help the human resources vice president and serve as employee ombudsman, and
  • develop and implement training programs emphasizing equal employment rights for all employees

The settlement announced Friday resolves federal court cases in East St. Louis, Illinois and Memphis and will effectively void an earlier tentative $15 million agreement reached in a third discrimination lawsuit against Rent-A-Center that was widely opposed as being too low.

As part of the news agreement, the third case will be dismissed and its plaintiffs will get a share of the new higher damage award, the EEOC said.

The company was badly hurt in the Illinois case when a federal judge green-lighted the discrimination claims after quoting a series of statements by Rent-A-Center officials such as “Women should be home taking care of their husbands and children, chained to a stove, not working in my stores.”