Discrimination suits should send overdue message What others say

Posted: Monday, July 26, 2004

If Morgan Stanley had taken seriously the sexual discrimination charges of a female employee, perhaps the Wall Street investment bank would not have ended up settling a lawsuit with the government (last) Monday and agreeing to write a $54 million check.

But the firm chose to ignore bond seller Allison Schieffelin's complaints that she had been passed over for promotions. She was eventually fired and filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency filed a suit on behalf of her and more than 300 other women at the firm. The company was accused of denying promotions, offering all-male outings with clients and allowing female employees to be subjected to groping and other improper behavior. Morgan Stanley decided to settle rather than go to trial. Schieffelin was awarded $12 million, with $40 million set aside for other female employees and $2 million for diversity programs.

One of the government's lawyers said the case should ''send a message to employees everywhere that allegations of sexual discrimination should be taken seriously.'' In truth, that message should have been received long ago. Too many companies still practice, tolerate or ignore sexual discrimination.

In Morgan Stanley's case, the discrimination settlement won't break the bank, but it should serve as a warning to other companies that there's a price to pay for discriminating against women in the workplace.

The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y. - July 16

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