Workplace Discrimination: Katz vs Anheuser-Busch Trial Begins

Workplace discrimination is still a problem that often goes on beneath the surface of some of the country’s most well-known companies. Anheuser-Busch recently came under fire with a case from a former employee, Francine Katz, who claims her years at the company were checkered with a variety of discriminatory practices that hampered her ability to advance in her career, and made her feel like an outsider. These claims are now under litigation in a court in St. Louis, where Ms. Katz hopes she will be compensated.

The Case in St. Louis

The case has been filed under the Human Rights Act instead of the federal Title XII legislation. Filing under MHRA has conditions that are friendlier to plaintiff cases because of a number of special provisions. The MHRA allows more cases to go to court and has waived the arbitration requirement in the Anheuser-Busch employment contract.

A Culture of Exclusion

Ms. Katz testified that Anheuser-Busch made her travel on a corporate jet that was separate from her male counterparts at the company. She was also excluded from golf outings and other events. She feels the company has a male-dominated power structure that did not know how to work well with women who had reached the higher levels of responsibility, and ultimately found it easier to simply exclude them than find ways to blend them into the corporate culture. She was not even aware of the difference in pay scale until the company was sold to InBev, a Belgian brewing company, at which time documents on the disparity in salaries were made available.

Anheuser-Busch Responds

Anheuser-Busch (AB) has responded to the case by noting that Ms. Katz made as much as one million dollars a year with her salary, bonuses and stock options after being appointed to the position of vice president of communications and consumer affairs. Though that is undeniably true, Ms. Katz’s predecessor, a male, made four times as much. AB contends that she “was paid for her job, not for her gender,” and that her predecessor, John Jacobs, had significantly better credentials and served in additional capacities, serving also as confidante to Chairman of Anheuser-Busch’s Board of Directors August Busch IV. However, the facts show that Ms. Katz’s official duties did not differ from the previous holder of the position.

The Repercussions

Ms. Katz is asking for $9.4 million she failed to receive between 2002 and 2008, plus punitive damages. How the judge will weigh the various facts of the case remains to be seen in this contentious case about the right to equal pay under the law.