A three-person arbitration panel last Thursday ordered securities firm Salomon Smith Barney to pay roughly $3.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a female employee, as part of a 1997 settlement in a sex-discrimination lawsuit. Initiated in 1996 by three women working in Garden City, New York for then-Smith Barney, the lawsuit quickly ballooned into a class-action case, with almost 2,000 female employees charging a sexually hostile work environment company-wide. While 95 percent of the women have accepted settlement offers from the company, 91 cases remain pending. Tameron Keyes, the second employee to have rejected private settlement offers and opt for arbitration, is the first to receive an award.
Arbitration documents reveal that in the early 1990s, male coworkers at Keyes’ Los Angeles office created “a work place permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insults,” which included playing porn videos, having phone sex on speakerphone, and hiring strippers to perform during work hours, according to the Associated Press.
A 2001 survey released by the non-profit group Catalyst indicated that one-third of women working in the seven top Wall Street securities firms reported a hostile work environment, where they faced unwanted sexual attention, crude remarks, or unequal treatment. Besides Salomon, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter have also faced sex-discrimination complaints.
In related news, Ford Motor Co. yesterday settled a sexual harassment lawsuit, involving a female plant employee who “was subjected to unwelcome sexual talk, innuendoes, jokes, touching, staring, whistling and intimidation,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint, reported by the Los Angeles Times. While the sum of the settlement has not been disclosed, Ford has already agreed to provide sexual harassment training to managers. The settlement awaits approval from a federal judge.