ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — 3M Co. has agreed to pay up to $12 million to settle an age-discrimination lawsuit with as many as 7,000 current and former employees.

The 2004 lawsuit targeted the company’s performance-review system, alleging that older workers were disproportionately downgraded. It also accused the company of favoring younger employees for certain training opportunities that could fast-track them for promotions.

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The Maplewood-based industrial company and plaintiffs filed a joint motion Friday for preliminary approval of the settlement.

3M said the proposed settlement was not an admission of liability. Spokeswoman Donna Fleming Runyon said the deal would remove a legal distraction and cap its legal fees.

“We think it’s a reasonable resolution,” she told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It will allow the company and our employees to focus on growing our business and serving our customers.”

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It’s not clear how much of the money will go to plaintiffs. Their lawyers are seeking up to $6.4 million in expenses and attorneys’ fees.

3M has also reached a settlement on a separate age-discrimination lawsuit that had been filed in San Jose, Calif., in 2009. Terms of that agreement have not been disclosed.

While the company has not commented directly on the amount of either settlement, it referred to both in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last month as “not material” to its operations or financial condition.

3M has about 80,000 employees worldwide, including about 15,000 in Minnesota.

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