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Food services company Sodexho Alliance SA agreed Wednesday to pay $80 million to settle a lawsuit brought by thousands of black employees who charged that they were routinely barred from promotions and segregated within the company.

The agreement, one of the biggest race-related job bias settlements in recent years, also includes detailed provisions for increasing diversity at the Maryland-based company, including promotion incentives, monitoring and training.

Court documents said that, in 2000, blacks held 18 out of 700 upper management jobs and none of the 188 top corporate jobs.

Plaintiffs alleged that so-called black accounts -- at historically black colleges, for example -- were overwhelmingly staffed with black employees and managers, who were rarely promoted outside of those accounts.

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