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The National Litigious Environment

Mauricio Velásquez, President
The Diversity Training Group

As you read below keep in mind many of these awards do not include legal fees, tarnished corporate and brand image, lost revenues due to boycott(s), the loss of good talent, and the inability to attract new talent.

 

AWARDS

Sexual Harassment

bulletTrial court judge awards almost $2 million to three female employees of California men's prison (1997).
bulletIn 1994, Baker & McKenzie law firm paid $7.1 million in punitive damages to a former secretary.

Glass Ceiling Review of Women's Pay

bulletNovell's WordPerfect pays $95,000 in back pay and salary adjustment to one minority and four women managers (1994).

Sex Discrimination

bulletDiscrimination in promotion policies: Texaco paid a $20.5 million award to a female manager. Of its 54,000 employees in supervisory level positions or above, only 4 were women at the time (1991).

Racially Hostile Working Environment

bulletIn 1996, J.C. Penney, Seattle, WA paid $1 million for perpetuating a racially hostile working environment.

 

CLASS ACTIONS

Home Depot
EEOC seeks to intervene in sex bias suit against Home Depot Inc. by four women at two Louisiana stores. Women also seek, but have yet to be granted, class certification. The case could involve 22,000 female workers at 350 stores in 17 Eastern states as of Sept. 1996. Two potential lawsuits--one East and one West of Mississippi (one based in San Francisco, CA and one in MS.) '97

Texaco
No objections to settlement of race discrimination class action against Texaco Corp. are stated at final fairness hearing, clearing way for federal judge's expected approval of landmark $172 million pact ($32 million set aside for diversity training and don't forget stock dip) '97.

Merrill Lynch & Co.
Lawsuit alleging widespread sex, wage, and pregnancy bias against New York-based brokerage firm is amended to include class claims. '97

United Parcel Service
EEOC suit in California alleges that UPS violates ADA by denying individuals with vision in one eye positions as drivers and mechanics. '97

Honeywell
Honeywell Inc. agreed to pay $6.5 million to remedy Labor Dept. charges that it discriminated against 6,000 female employees between 1972 and 1977. The company will also pay back wages totaling $3.54 million to the women, who allegedly endured discrimination in promotions in job assignments at factories in the Minn.-St. Paul, MN area. Honeywell will also spend $3 million on diversity programs (1994).

Lucky Stores
In 1993, a sex discrimination class action suit, $75 million in damages and an additional $20 million in affirmative action programs for female employees was levied against Lucky Stores.

State Farm Insurance
Class action discrimination suit, $157 million for deliberately not hiring female agents throughout California in 1992.

 

MORE AWARDS/OTHERS

bulletAvis, alleged discrimination against Jewish and Black customers in two franchise operations.
bulletCircuit City awards two black employees nearly $300,000 in damages for a pattern of intentional race discrimination at the corporate HQ. Not a class action, it has opened the way for 1,800 black workers to sue the company.
bulletWal-Mart Stores in 1995 had $50 million verdict (punitive damages) reduced to $5 million for a victim of sexual harassment.
bulletKodak paid 3 former account representatives $752,202 each in connection with a sexual harassment lawsuit.
bulletDomino's ordered to pay $237,858 to harassed men.
bulletOthers in the news - Denny's, Mitsubishi, PEPCO, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Smith Barney

 

FINAL COMMENTS

Regardless of your intentions as an organization, what is the impact on your employees of your policies, procedures, and actions (or lack thereof)? Do you have an inclusive or exclusive work environment?

Don't worry about experiencing resistance or skepticism when training your managers, supervisors, and employees about workplace inclusivity. Worry more about not training your people and having them all stay with your organization. Cynicism destroys organizations.

Just because you ignore certain issues, it does not mean they will go away--sometimes these issues resurface with a vengeance.

It was reported in the New York Times (Jan. 7, 1997) that Texaco has contracted with a public relations firm to refurbish its public image, at an estimated cost of $40 million worldwide.

Lastly, it is much more cost effective and productive to be proactive than to be reactive as an organization. What are you waiting for? What is your organization waiting for?

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