Voice of America, a government sponsored overseas radio broadcasting program, faces sex discrimination claims in excess of $500 million dollars. Twelve years ago, a federal judge ruled that VOA discriminated against women in its hiring practices. Now, a special master, law professor Stephen A. Saltzburg, is in the process of deciding how much, if any, each of the 1,100 women bringing claims against VOA will be awarded. So far, he has awarded eight women a total of $4.7 million and denied claims to two others. On top of the monetary awards, the government must set up retirement accounts for all the women who have successful claims. The government has failed twice in getting a Federal Appeals Court to overturn the case and is now considering appealing directly to the Supreme Court.
The discrimination allegedly occurred between 1974 and 1984. It included hiring discrimination in various fields within VOA, such as writer/editor, foreign language broadcasters, foreign information or production specialists, and radio broadcast or electric technicians. One woman, Lynn Goldman Barrett, sent in an application along with her husband; they had essentially the same experience, having co-owned Mirasound Studios Inc. He was given a job as a recording technician immediately and she was not, even though there were plenty of job openings at VOA. At the first hearing, the government claimed it never received her application, even though it was sent in the same package as her husband’s. Then she reapplied in 1982 and the government claimed she was not qualified. She protested and then was told she would need to fill out an additional form, which did not exist. Saltzburg wrote in his opinion, awarding her $562,481, “Women and men were treated differently. There were openings for ‘warm bodies’ as long as those bodies were male.”