Entries in Women (29)


Company Facing Lawsuits for Alleged Sexual Assaults Voted Top Employer for Women

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- KBR, a company that has been sued repeatedly for alleged sexual assaults and harassment of female employees, has been voted one of the best companies for women to work for by a magazine aimed at female engineers.

Woman Engineer named the Houston-based contracting company number 46 in the 2011 version of the magazine's annual list of the top 50 best workplaces. Winners were chosen by readers who responded to a survey, and the magazine will publish the full list later this month.

KBR has extensive contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attorney Todd Kelly, who has so far represented five former KBR employees who have alleged sexual assault or harassment, told ABC News that in all about 40 women have contacted his office about alleged incidents that occurred while they were working overseas for KBR or at one of its facilities.

Kelly said he didn't think the women he's interviewed or represented would be pleased with Woman Engineer's honor. "The women that I've spoken with personally, who have talked about just rampant misconduct, sexual and otherwise, by KBR management, I don't think would agree with that distinction," said Kelly. "I find it extremely interesting that the timing of that particular distinction comes out just a couple of months before the Jamie Jones trial is about to start."

Jamie Leigh Jones was working her fourth day on the job in Baghdad in 2005 when, she says, she was drugged and gang-raped by seven U.S. contractors and held captive by two KBR guards in a shipping container. Like other alleged victims, Jones had signed a contract requiring her to deal with sexual assault allegations through arbitration. But in September 2009 a federal appeals court ruled that the case could go to court instead of arbitration. Jones's lawsuit won't go to trial until June, but it has already led to the passage of the Franken Amendment, which prohibits contractors from using arbitration as opposed to the courts against ex-employees claiming sexual assault.

Other victims include Tracy Barker, who won a $3 million judgment in arbitration against KBR over a 2005 sexual assault. KBR initially challenged the award, saying the rape claim had never been confirmed. "I was raped," Barker responded. "KBR knows that and they're wrong about that."

Another alleged victim, Anna Mayo, was working in KBR's facility in Balad, Iraq in November 2009 when she says she was assaulted by an unnamed rapist who worked for KBR. She charged that she was choked unconscious with a rope, beaten and raped. KBR filed a motion to dismiss, saying that Ms. Mayo should get worker's compensation but not anything else. Mayo's case is still pending.

The editor of Woman Engineer, Jim Schneider, told ABC News that the rankings in its annual list were decided by readers. The magazine sent out a survey to about 1,000 readers that asked: "What companies and government agencies would you like to work for or believe are progressive in recruiting, hiring and promoting women engineers?" They ask respondents to rate their top three choices and then each is weighted accordingly to complete the rankings.

KBR did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment. In a press release issued in response to Woman Engineer's rankings, the company said, "KBR is proud of its diverse workforce...Their efforts do not go unnoticed and help us recognize the elements that will help us to continue to thrive in the future."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Supreme Court Justices Seem Leery of Walmart Plaintiffs

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Several Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical Tuesday of the arguments made by an attorney on behalf of female plaintiffs that they should be allowed to band together and sue Walmart for sex discrimination.

The nation's largest private employer provided its managers with unchecked discretion that led to widespread sexual discrimination and women being paid less than men despite more seniority and higher performance, Joseph Sellers argued before the court.

But Walmart said a lower court was wrong to allow hundreds of thousands of current and former female employees to join forces and sue the company.

"The company has a very strong policy against discrimination and in favor of diversity, " lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr. argued on behalf of the retail giant.

If the Supreme Court allows the case to go forward, it would be the largest employment discrimination class-action suit in history involving potentially billions of dollars.

Sellers said Walmart has a "very strong corporate culture" and that it allows its managers "broad discretion," which he called the "Walmart way."

But Justice Anthony Kennedy challenged Sellers, saying, "It's not clear to me what the unlawful policy that Walmart has adopted, under your theory of the case.

"Your complaint faces in two directions. Number one, you said this is a culture where...headquarters knows everything that's going on. Then in the next breath, you say, well, now these supervisors have too much discretion," he said.

Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with Kennedy. "I'm getting whipsawed here," he said.

"It's either the individual supervisors are left on their own, or else there is a strong corporate culture that tells them what to do."

The case stems from a sexual discrimination suit filed in 2001 by six female employees alleging they had been paid less than men in comparable positions in violation of Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination. As word spread, dozens and dozens of women joined the suit and a district court ruled the case could go forward on behalf of all similarly situated women.

The Supreme Court is not addressing the merits of the sex discrimination claims, only whether the women can go forward as a class.

Walmart argues that in order to qualify as a class, the women need to satisfy the so-called "commonality requirement."

"The commonality requirement is part of the rule of civil procedure governing class actions," class-action litigation expert Andrew Trask said. "It means that the women's claims have to be similar enough so that if you prove one woman's claim, you have proven every woman's claim."

Outside court Tuesday, Betty Dukes, one of the original plaintiffs who works as a greeter at Walmart, agreed.

"Walmart may be a big company, " she said, "but they're not big enough where they can't be challenged in a court of law. If you do wrong, then you should be held accountable, from the least of us to the greatest of us."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Walmart and Women: How Do Other Big Companies Embrace Female Workers?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Carly Huey never thought she'd still be working for Patagonia.

"I started working in the Boston store in 1997 as a sales associate," Huey said.

Huey thought the job would only last a year, but two kids and multiple promotions later, she has now been with the company for more than 10 years.

She climbed the ladder from sales associate to district manager, holding three other positions along the way.

Patagonia offers "no cost" health insurance for its employees, even to those who work just 20 hours a week. Almost everyone at the company, 99 percent of employees, work a flexible schedule: Leaving to attend a child's soccer game is actually encouraged.

The result of this kind of workplace is that women have stayed and excelled at Patagonia. Today, 62 percent of the company's top executives are women, and what is good for women is good for business.

"There's a huge return on investment for companies who invest in their female employees and in their hourly workers, and that investment pays off by having talented people who stay," said Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media.

Marriott International extends its hospitality to all employees. The hotel chain offers perks like flextime and training to everyone, including front desk workers and housekeepers.

Marriott also promotes from within the company, and five of the company's 12 vice presidents are women.

Over at McDonalds, even part-time employees can apply for the 401k program and purchase health insurance.

If an employee wants to go back to school, McDonalds will reimburse them. Sixty-four percent of store managers at the company are women and 70 percent of them started flipping burgers.

This means that the girl taking orders behind the counters has a real shot at eventually being the company's CEO.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Supreme Court to Hear Whether Millions of Female Employees Can Sue Walmart

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When Christine Kwapnoski of Concord, Calif., told her boss at a division of Walmart that she wanted a job promotion, she said, he told her to "blow the cobwebs off your makeup" and to "doll up" in order to advance.

Instead, she joined five other female employees and filed a sexual discrimination suit against the company 10 years ago alleging that women had been paid less than men in comparable positions in violation of Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.

As word of the suit spread, dozens and dozens of women joined in and a lower court ruled that the case could go forward on behalf of all current and former female employees since 1998.

Kwapnoski will be at the Supreme Court Tuesday when the justices hear arguments on whether the lower court was correct in allowing the women to band together to file their lawsuit, or whether they must file as individuals.

If the court rules in favor of the women and grants them "class certification," it will most likely become the largest employment class-action suit in history, involving potentially millions of women and billions of dollars.

A decision is likely to come in early summer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Majority of British Women Flirt for Discounts

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- British women don’t just rely on sales and coupons to save money, they also use their feminine charms.  A new survey conducted in the UK shows 85 percent of women admit using flirting techniques, including hair tossing, giggling, strong eye contact and being overly friendly, to get the best price on a product.

Additional survey findings:

    * The survey found that women were most likely to turn on their feminine charms to receive discounts at bars, electronics and appliance retailers, gyms and travel agents.
    * More than 56 percent of the women surveyed have managed to obtain a service or product free of charge because they flirted.
    * Women save on average $225 a year by flirting with store staffers until they get a discount.  In comparison, men save more money by haggling for the best price and offering to pay for items with cash.

The survey of 3,000 British adults was commissioned by, an online coupon company.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Women Lag Behind Men in Economic Recovery

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Women are lagging behind men in the nation's slow economic recovery, new government statistics show.

Of the 1.3 million jobs created in the last 12 months, some 90 percent have gone to men, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women have gained just 149,000 jobs.

There's no question that the recession hit men particularly hard, with jobs slashed from traditionally male-dominated sectors like manufacturing and construction. Men have still lost more net jobs than women have since the start of the recession in December 2007, with men losing a net 4.9 million jobs, while women have lost 2.5 million jobs.

While you might expect men to recover more jobs since far more men were put out of work, there are some signs that things have gotten worse for women rather than better. Looking at the data since the end of the recession in July 2009, men have gained 600,000 jobs while women have lost 300,000 jobs.

While government spending has gone toward investments in infrastructure like roads, there have been cuts in public education and other public-sector service jobs. Women make up some 57 percent of the public workforce, but between July 2009 and Feb. 2011, they lost a far higher proportion of the jobs. Nearly 80 percent of the public-sector jobs cut during that period were held by women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As unemployed women look for work, experts also point to cultural biases that may hinder their search. While anti-discrimination laws prohibit the practice, some employers may believe that male workers will clock longer hours or be more dedicated to their jobs.

"Women undertake more of the family work than men do," said Frances Rosenbluth, a professor of international politics and deputy provost for the social sciences at Yale University. "Despite laws, people won't hire women for jobs that require long hours or travel."

An out-of-work man may also benefit from an employer's sympathetic assumption that he's his family's breadwinner, even though American families have come to depend on income from women far more than in decades past. Strober said that wives now contribute roughly 30 percent of a married couple's earnings, and nearly a quarter of children under 18 live in single-mother households.

At the high end of the employment pool, women may have been affected more by the recession than many realized. Female leaders at the most senior levels of companies were three times more likely to lose jobs than men during the recession, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization focusing on women and business.

Catalyst found that part of the reason for that disparity is that women's mentors were less senior than those of men, and when it comes time to lay off employees, that can be a disadvantage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Two Florida Shoppers Get Head Start on Black Friday Rush

Photo Courtesy - WFTS Tampa, Fla.(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) -- Two Florida shoppers are way ahead of the Black Friday pandemonium.

In fact, it’s been that way since Wednesday, when Lorie Davenport and Tina Thain began their stakeout in front of a St. Petersburg Best Buy store more than a week before doors open Friday at 5 a.m.

"I really didn't think about the days," Thain told ABC News Tampa affiliate WFTS. "We really didn't think about it because we just wanted to be first."

And it’s already paid off. Best Buy this week awarded each couple an Apple iPad for their prime spot in line.

"We didn't think about that in the beginning," Davenport said. "Now it's really sinking in that we really are the first people in line. It's kind of exciting."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


White House Reports on Recession's Impact on Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a report heavy with statistics, the National Economic Council at the White House maps out administration actions the council claims have helped American women during the recession and recovery.

The report, released Thursday, claims 74 million women benefited from the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, and that most recent Small Business Administration loans have gone to women owned enterprises.

“Economic issues are women’s issues,”  Valerie Jarrett, presidential advisor and head of the White House Council on Women and Girls, told reporters on a conference call.  “Women and girls have been a focus of this administration from the very start.”

The report  is released in time for President Obama to discuss it in Seattle, Washington, when he attends another of his “backyard  townhall” events, this one called a conversation “on women and the economy."  He is in Seattle to campaign for Senator Patty Murray, a female Democrat in a very tight race for re-election.

Jarrett denied to reporters the timing is political.  “We’re not going to let the fact that there’s an election coming up get in the way  of announcing something that will be very important to women,“ she said.   “This is one step of a series of steps we have taken to put the spotlight on women in the workplace.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Gender Pay Gap Report: Women Managers Still Lag Behind Men

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- According to a new government report, females in management positions and their corresponding pay still lag behind that of their male counterparts.  The U.S.Government Accountability Office report, "Women in Management: Analysis of Female Managers' Representation, Characteristics, and Pay," released Tuesday, found little has changed for women in the workforce when it comes to compensation.  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and chair of the Joint Economic Committee, commissioned the report and is holding a congressional hearing Tuesday to discuss its findings.  "What is most startling to me is how little progress we've made even though there's a bright spot in that more women are gaining education, we're closing the education gap but we're not closing the pay gap," Maloney said. Although there are more women represented across several industries, the number of women managers only increased by one percent -- from 39 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2007.  The report analyzed 13 industries from construction to health care and looked at the pay gap between female and male managers. The factors used in determining the salary levels included age, hours worked and education.  For the first time, the report also looked at working mothers in management.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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