EMPLOYEES AND MANAGEMENT BUTT HEADS IN LITIGIOUS YEAR

With mixed success, disgruntled employees continued this year to wage courtroom battles with the retail food industry. One supermarket company took a wrongful dismissal case successfully to the U.S. Supreme Court, while several others settled class-action discrimination suits, including one for $33 million.Among the other issues that brought the industry before the law were disputes between companies

With mixed success, disgruntled employees continued this year to wage courtroom battles with the retail food industry. One supermarket company took a wrongful dismissal case successfully to the U.S. Supreme Court, while several others settled class-action discrimination suits, including one for $33 million.

Among the other issues that brought the industry before the law were disputes between companies over deals gone sour, patents infringed and promises not kept.

There were also the occasional acts of corporate skullduggery, including one investment manager who allegedly diverted perhaps as much as $100 million from his clients to acquire a now-defunct supermarket company.

Below are some of this year's legal highlights:

Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, took a case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. In June, the court ruled a dismissed truck driver whom a disease caused to have vision in only one eye could not sue Albertson's under the Americans with Disabilities Act to get his job back.

Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, agreed in July to a $33 million settlement in a discrimination class-action suit filed on behalf of female and African-American workers.

In August, a district court judge in Denver ruled Wal-Mart Stores responsible for an unspecified amount of back pay and overtime to more than 1,000 pharmacists.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Dallas district office settled a class-action age and disabilities discrimination suit against Kroger Co., Cincinnati. The settlement called for Kroger to pay $240,000 to 21 men, all over the age of 40, who were not hired at a Kroger warehouse because they failed a physical abilities test.

In January, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., filed suit against Raley's Supermarkets & Drug Centers, West Sacramento, Calif., seeking to dissolve a dairy and warehouse company, Super Stores Industries, the two chains had created in 1980. Raley's was making decisions to its own advantage about SSI without consulting Save Mart, Save Mart alleged.

Food industry groups are still trying to work out a settlement with the estate of the late Jerome H. Lemelson, a Nevada inventor who claimed to hold a patent on bar-code technology dating from 1954.

Stop & Shop Co., Boston, and Peapod, Skokie, Ill., were accused in September of fraud in a class-action suit that alleged the supermarket and its Internet home delivery service charged higher than listed prices to Web customers.

The former owner of now-defunct National Food Stores, St. Louis, was accused in October in a civil suit of diverting as much as $100 million from clients of an investment company he owned. He allegedly plundered the investment accounts he was supervising and used the funds both to pay for his luxurious lifestyle and buy and later prop up National.

In January, Dunkin' Donuts, Randolph, Mass., filed suit in Federal Court accusing the Riese Organization, one of its franchisees, with breach of contract for not meeting the chain's health and safety standards. The suit followed the publication in a New York newspaper of a picture showing a mouse munching on a doughnut in the window of one of Riese's Dunkin' Donuts stores in Manhattan.