Lawyers and academics who specialize in gender discrimination say the documents recently released in a class-action against Sterling Jewelers provide a rare insight into how a company’s policies work in real life. In my article in The New York Times today, I examine the problems with not-so-confidential tip lines and in-house courts run by employers, and the ways they can mask problems that women often face in the workplace. You can read it here.
Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler sure got our attention with her 3,000-word essay about the brushoff she got from Human Resources when she reported sexual harassment. Her blog post went viral and Uber went into crisis mode, apologizing to employees and hiring big-gun former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to do an investigation
Some women get stuck in a frustrating he-said-she-said when they report harassment to HR, but Fowler said in her essay that she came armed with evidence. What more is there to say when you show up with screenshots of chat sessions that memorialize your boss’s come-ons?
Open-and-shut case? Not exactly. Fowler says they told her it was all just an “innocent mistake.” Yes, really. I wrote about it today for CNN.com. Here’s a link.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson did it before she sued Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. And now a Los Angeles-based television news anchor has done the same, gathering secret recordings of the supervisor she ultimately sued.
Karla Amezola, an award-winning anchor at the Spanish-language network Estrella TV, sued Estrella parent Liberman Broadcasting and her supervisor, Andres Angulo, in June. Her case, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, has gone largely unnoticed for months.
I spoke with Amezola’s lawyers for my column published at TheStreet.com today, and asked if Amezola had recorded the defendant. They told me she had, but declined to allow me to listen to the recordings. Sexual harassment cases have always been tough ones for plaintiffs to win, but the trend towards secret taping may finally reverse that. You can read today’s column here.
From the judges: “In these searing columns, Antilla highlights the anti-consumer sentiment that has taken hold of significant portions of the Republican Party as it attempts to distance agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
My stories also have been entered into the national competition for The National Federation of Press Women, which said this week that I’d won first place in two of its “at-large” contests, which include 27 states that don’t have direct affiliations with NFPW. One winning entry was for my columns for TheStreet about the fleecing of senior citizens by stock brokers. A second winning entry was in the feature category, for my article in The New York Times about sex discrimination at Sterling Jewelers, the biggest retail jewelry operation in the United States. The winners in the “at large” categories have been entered into NFPW’s national competition.
Oral arguments are expected to begin Tuesday in the sex discrimination case against the powerful Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Ellen Pao, who sued Kleiner nearly three years ago, accused the firm of gender discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation. I wrote about her case in my column for TheStreet last week.
Pao, who is interim CEO of the micro-blogging site Reddit, says that after she complained of discrimination at Kleiner, she went from being a star among junior partners to an employee viewed as a whiner who had “issues and clashes” with colleagues. She says one coworker badgered her into having an affair, and that a partner at the firm gave her a copy of a book of poetry with sexual imagery.
Kleiner has asked the judge to clear the courtroom when there’s evidence being presented about its proprietary business information and financial performance, among other things. Even if it wins on that motion, there are sure to be plenty of fireworks that remain for public consumption.
When Pao filed her suit in 2012, I noted this about the sad history of women in the workplace a column for Bloomberg View:
Twelve of Kleiner’s 49 partners are women, and in the venture-capital business, that’s considered very, very good. How is it that 20 years after Anita Hill broke the silence about gender discrimination and harassment at work, there are still companies that can take a bow for being gender-equality heroes when 75 percent of their leaders are men?
In the ongoing gender discrimination case against Sterling Jewelers, owner of Kay Jewelers, Jared the Galleria of Jewelers and 10 other chains, an arbitrator this week released a 118-page opinion that moves the fight to a new stage and reveals new information about pay disparities and sexual harassment.
Kathleen Roberts, a former U.S. magistrate judge and an arbitrator at JAMS in New York, said that the women may proceed as a class with their claim challenging Sterling’s pay and promotion practices. She declined to let them proceed with another claim of intentional discrimination.
Because it’s private arbitration, most of the documents are not public. But the law firm for the women was permitted to post Judge Roberts’ opinion so that the thousands of women in the class would have details about this next stage in their case.
The judge referred to several internal company memos that show that Sterling has been aware of pay disparities between men and women for years. From my story in The New York Times on Feb. 3:
In her ruling, the judge cited an internal company memo from 2006 that said female hourly sales employees made 40 cents less an hour than their male counterparts on average, adding up to more than seven million annual affected hours. A memo the next year said that men at Sterling’s stores, which include Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, were paid 12.5 percent more base pay than women and that women at the management level were getting higher performance scores but receiving lower pay increases than men.
The judge also talked about evidence of sexual harassment. More from my NY Times story:
Women in some cases were expected to undress publicly at company events and “accede to sexual overtures,” the judge wrote. She cited evidence of “references to women in sexual and vulgar ways, groping and grabbing women” and soliciting sexual relations, sometimes as a quid pro quo for job benefits.
You can read my story here. The judge’s opinion is here. And a story that I wrote for The Times about the case last year is here. Sterling has 1,700 stores in all 50 states. Chances are you’ve done business with some of these guys at your local mall.
On July 3, Goldman, Sachs & Co. submitted a 74-page memorandum of law and declarations of 27 Goldman Sachs witnesses to Judge James C. Francis of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and to three women who are suing the firm for gender discrimination.
The high-profile case of Cristina Chen-Oster et al. v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. et al. has been going on since Chen-Oster and two other former Goldman women sued in 2010. On July 1, the women’s lawyers filed a brief asking the court to certify them as a class. I wrote about the heavily redacted document in this story for TheStreet.
On July 3, Goldman filed its response. But 16 days later, it still is not on the court docket.
As it turns out, Goldman has been at work redacting that document over the past two weeks, and you can’t help but wonder what it is that the firm is so hellbent on keeping from the public. I raised that question in my latest column for TheStreet. You can read it here.
On Feb. 26, eight women who had sued Sterling Jewelers, Inc. were ushered into a private hearing room in midtown Manhattan with their lawyers, lawyers for Sterling, and an arbitrator. The door was shut behind them.
Like an increasing number of disputes between employees and employers, this one would be heard in a forum where the public and the press were forbidden.
I asked to attend the late February hearings on this sex discrimination case that could wind up including 44,000 women in 50 states, but the arbitrator declined my request. More important is that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the agency in charge of enforcing federal civil rights laws – also asked, and also was declined.
Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that the agency was told it could ask for a transcript, although no guarantee was made that it would receive one.
Sterling, based in Akron, Ohio, is parent of 12 jewelry chains in the U.S., including Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers.
The two sides presented their arguments for and against a motion to certify a class of women who’d worked in sales positions at Sterling since 2003. The women at the hearing, who would act as representatives of the class, say that Sterling discriminated against them in its pay and promotion policies.
The case, which I wrote about Saturday in The New York Times, includes examples of some of the worst sexual harassment allegations I’ve ever heard, and that includes the vulgar behavior I wrote about in my book “Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles That Exposed Wall Street’s Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment.”
Sterling says the allegations are “without merit.” Continue reading