CREDIT: AP/Jeff Roberson
A jury of seven women and five men ruled against a former Anheuser-Busch executive who had claimed gender discrimination in her pay.
Francine Katz, formerly the highest-ranking woman executive at the company, claimed that while she made $1 million after being promoted to vice president of communications and consumer affairs, she was unfairly paid less than the man who had the job before her, John Jacob, who earned $4.5 million. She said she had hoped that gap would close, but after six years she still made less than half of his compensation. For its part, the company contended that Jacob was paid more because he had more substantive responsibilities and Katz’s job was simply public relations. She argued that she did more than that, lobbying lawmakers, testifying before Congress, and helping to create influential anti-drunk driving campaigns.
Beyond the alleged discrepancy in Katz’s pay, evidence during the trial also showed that there were two tiers on the strategy committee, which Katz belonged to. All the male executives were paid on tier one, while the only two women were on tier two. President Dave Peacock testified that system only had to do with a person’s market rate.
Katz also accused the company of keeping her out of important functions like corporate golf tournaments and hunting trips.
Jury members said that while initially votes were split evenly, some eventually sided with the company. Jury foreman Dorian Daniels said “the evidence was not enough to single out gender.”
After the verdict was read, Katz said, “I am disappointed but I think that all the attention and discussion this lawsuit has sparked is for the good…I hope this lawsuit opens the door for change.” But some legal analysts told KSDK that they are worried that the outcome could discourage some women from bringing similar cases. “In a high profile case like this, when an individual loses, it certainly can discourage others from bringing an action,” attorney Jerry Dobson told the publication. It may not mean the case set a legal precedent. But winning these cases is already tough: Employees have only won about a third of equal pay claims over the past decade.
One would hope this isn’t precedent setting, because even if the jury didn’t find discrimination in Katz’s case, the things she described are common experiences for women in the top ranks. The highest paid female executives still make 18 percent less than the highest paid male ones. The problem of different tiers is also common. While few women make it to the executive suite — they hold less than 15 percent of these jobs — even the ones who get there face a glass ceiling of their own. They are still often relegated to support positions and aren’t given the leadership roles. That, in turn, could make it easier to justify lower pay.