On May 20, 1996, Pamela Kay Martens, Judith Mione and Roberta O’Brien Thomann filed a federal suit in the Southern District of New York, seeking class action status in a sexual harassment and discrimination suit against Smith Barney. This suit brought to public awareness not only the discrimination in the securities industry but of Wall Street’s harmful practice of mandatory arbitration for such cases. Since this time, 23 additional women have joined the suit, making it the largest class action suit ever filed against a securities industry firm, and attorneys for the women say they have received complaints from more than a hundred women who work, or have worked for Smith Barney. Charges range from the refusal to promote women into broker positions to having a supervisor rub up against a worker’s breasts. As a result of the company’s contemptible actions, Smith Barney became the first “Merchant of Shame” in NOW’s Women-Friendly Workplace campaign.
We are proud to honor Sandy Sanders, Patty Wallace and Vivian Forsythe-Arche with a Women of Courage Award on behalf of the women in the landmark United States v. Lanier case. These courageous women took powerful Tennessee Chancery Court Judge David Lanier all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure that he would never assault another woman again. One woman who was sexually abused by Judge Lanier had a custody dispute before him and was afraid of losing her child if she complained. Other women endured Lanier touching and squeezing their crotches, buttocks and breasts as well as rubbing his erect penis against them -- but remained silent out of fear for their jobs as court employees. Due to the fortitude of these women, David Lanier was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The women who work or worked at the Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill., want nothing more than the chance to make a decent living. They found instead a work environment fraught with harassment, abuse and glass ceilings, according to complaints filed in a lawsuit against Mitsubishi and allegations made by plaintiffs' attorneys. The discrimination, physical assaults and verbal abuse became so unbearable that some of the women at Mitsubishi sacrificed their livelihoods and reputations to sue the company. Nearly 300 women who have faced harassment have been uncovered in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation. In addition, a private civil suit was brought by 29 women employees of the company. Despite promises from Mitsubishi to remedy the harassment and discrimination, the company has not changed its corporate culture. NOW proudly stands with the plaintiffs of the Mitsubishi case and honors them with a Women of Courage Award.
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