- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

Carolee Brady never had to wonder why she lost out on a job as a magazine writer for the U.S. Information Agency 23 years ago.
"The editor told me he wanted to hire a man … that they had too many women on the magazine already. He said the magazine would include articles about sports and asked me if I knew anything about soccer," Ms. Brady, now a psychotherapist in San Francisco, said in a telephone interview.
"I had worked as a writer and editor, but this man was telling me he wasn't going to hire me because I was a woman. And he was so cavalier about it. Sex discrimination is usually so subtle and insidious, but this man said outright he wanted to hire a man. As a result, I just knew there had to be so much [sex] discrimination there" at that federal agency, she said.
Ms. Brady responded by filing first an administrative complaint and later a sex discrimination lawsuit against the USIA. She became the lead plaintiff in what became a huge class-action suit, in which she and hundreds of other women charged they were denied jobs at USIA and its former member agency, Voice of America, simply because they are female.
A federal judge determined the bureaucracies were guilty of hiring discrimination way back in 1984, but the government kept appealing. And when it ran out of appeals in May 1997, it decided it would fight each claim in court individually. But it abandoned that strategy by early this year after losing 46 of the first 48 trials.
The marathon case was settled last week, when the plaintiffs announced they would accept $508 million from the federal government to settle the claims of 1,100 women who were part of the class-action litigation.
The plaintiffs, who will each collect more than $461,000, will be sharing in the largest class-action settlement in the 36-year history of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, according to the lawyers who represented them.
It was a long torturous path, marked by gains and setbacks for both the plaintiffs and defendants. "It became obvious that the right thing to do was to settle," said Letitia King, spokeswoman for Voice of America.
"It's been an epic struggle. I feel like I've been waiting like a relative on death row. It's finally over," said Ms. Brady, a 52-year-old divorcee.
Stephen A. Saltzburg, a court-appointed special master who heard testimony in 48 individual complaints of employment discrimination, found that the USIA "rigged" the hiring process in favor of men.
In some cases, he said, it resorted to test fraud; alteration of test scores so that men who actually failed a test were shown as passing; pre-selection of men for posts and "pre-rejection of women"; and destruction of key personnel and test files while the lawsuit was still pending "to conceal evidence of discrimination in the test evaluation process."
Asked about such findings, Ms. King of VOA, said, "The record indicates staff made improper comments" to some women who sought jobs.
In fact, trial testimony revealed cases in which USIA male employees told female job applicants they were "taking food out of the mouths" of men with families and that women should be in the kitchen cooking, not in the work force.
Susan Brackshaw, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said USIA officials unsuccessfully tried to blame a "hiring freeze imposed by Ronald Reagan" for their failure to employ some women who applied for professional posts throughout the 1980s. Unfortunately for those using that excuse, Ms. Brackshaw said, Mr. Reagan rescinded the USIA hiring freeze just 57 days after imposing it.
There have been a lot of changes since Ms. Brady first filed her suit in 1977.
USIA no longer exists. It was folded into the State Department last fall as a result of congressional legislation. VOA, once part of USIA, is now under the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
As a result of those changes, the defendant in the suit is now Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. Ms. Brady said that really bothers her, as she's a "great admirer of Madeleine Albright," the first woman to hold the top U.S. diplomatic post.
What's more, approximately a dozen of the women who joined the class-action suit have died over the years, according to Bruce Fredrickson, a partner in the Washington law firm of Webster, Fredrickson and Brackshaw. Mr. Fredrickson, who has been involved in the case since the beginning, said money due them will go to their survivors.
Although Ms. Brady was the first disgruntled woman to accuse USIA of sex discrimination in court, she was not the first woman to file an administrative complaint against the agency on those grounds.
Toura Kem filed an internal administrative discrimination charge against VOA in 1974 after being turned down for a job as a radio broadcaster in that agency's Khmer service for Cambodians, said Ms. Brackshaw, also a partner in the Webster, Fredrickson and Brackshaw firm. She's been representing plaintiffs in the case for 20 years.
"Toura Kem had a lot of experience for that job, but [VOA officials] were hiring only men without experience," Ms. Brackshaw said in an interview.
Three years later in 1977, Ms. Brady filed her administrative charge. But the USIA ruled she had not been discriminated against.
Denied administrative relief, Ms. Brady went to federal court. Learning that other women had similar complaints about USIA, she asked the court to approve a class-action suit. In 1978, Toura Kem and three other women who charged sexual discrimination in USIA's hiring practices joined the Brady suit.
"The suit was tried in 1979 on the basis of discrimination against women in hiring and promotion. But [U.S. District Court] Judge [Charles] Richey rejected the class-action suit," ruling against the class by dismissing their claims, said Ms. Brackshaw.
The plaintiffs appealed, and in 1982, the federal appeals court found that Judge Rickey "had applied the wrong legal standards in his ruling. It threw out his dismissal of the class hiring claims," Ms. Brackshaw added. The case was returned to Judge Richey for further review and proceedings.
In 1984, Judge Richey found the USIA guilty of sex discrimination in hiring, said Ms. Brackshaw. In 1988, the judge issued an opinion ordering that the USIA "notify women worldwide" of the existence of the class-action suit.
Those eligible to be part of the suit, he said, would be women who applied for a job with USIA between 1974 and 1984. Judge Richey has since died.
Katherine R. Turpin said she first learned of the class-action suit through a public announcement and decided to join it after she was passed over for a job at USIA in 1983.
"I felt I was better qualified for the job than the guy who got it. I was not very happy, because this would have been a promotion,"said Ms. Turpin, who first went to work at USIA in 1977.
Other women who were part of the class-action suit included:
Mussarat Burkie: Turned down for a VOA post she applied for in 1984, VOA officials said she had failed a language exam that was required. Mr. Saltzburg, the special master, said that could not be proved because of a "destruction of evidence" by VOA, including the test records.
Dona De Sanctis: Mr. Saltzburg found that this woman, who holds a doctoral degree and is a former broadcaster for Vatican Radio in Rome, was turned down for a job to ensure the hiring of the son of a prominent VOA official. The young man, who was initially found unqualified, was given the highest score in a qualifying exam "rigged" in his favor, Mr. Saltzburg said.
Susan Ellis: She was turned down for a news writer post with VOA in 1984. Mr. Saltzburg said VOA failed to prove it rejected her for a "reason unrelated to her gender."
Jahanara Hasan: She was denied a job as a radio broadcaster in VOA's Bengali Service in 1980. VOA said she failed an exam, but Mr. Saltzburg said that could not be documented.
The special master also found evidence that another candidate for the job, an American man, "was clearly a favored candidate who was being treated outside the usual rules and likely outside the law."
Lynn Goldman Bartlett: She had the same qualifications as her husband as a radio broadcast technician. But while her husband was hired by USIA, Mrs. Bartlett was not. USIA insisted she had not applied for a job. The applications of both Mrs. Bartlett and her spouse were mailed in the same envelope, Mrs. Bartlett said.
Dilara Hashem: She sought a job as an international radio broadcaster. VOA requires that applicants for those positions pass both written and voice tests to be hired. Mr. Saltzburg said Ms. Hashem passed both, but the job went to a man who failed the voice test. He said there was "overwhelming" evidence that Ms. Hashem was "more qualified" than the male.
The women above were among the 48 individual complaints Mr. Saltsburg heard in trial and the 46 he determined were due back pay and interest. Those 46 women will be receiving a total of $22.7 million in individual awards, in addition to their share of the $508 million settlement.
Throughout those proceedings, Mr. Salzburg repeatedly found evidence that USIA had "openings for warm bodies, as long as those bodies were male."
Lost in all the post-settlement publicity was the fact that Carolee Brady, the first plaintiff in the suit, did not win her case before the special master. "I did not win my trial. The special master said I did not complete my [job] application," Ms. Brady said. She believes his decision was wrong.
"I have the right of appeal, but the settlement makes that unnecessary," she said.
While Ms. Brady will not receive a share of the extra $22.7 million that will be going to the 46 plaintiffs, it was agreed that all 1,100 plaintiffs in the class-action suit would share the $508 million, said Mr. Fredrickson.

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