NEW YORK, April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Eaton Corporation may be celebrating its "100-year heritage of innovation," but it remains firmly rooted in the dark ages when it comes to gender equality. Innovation does not seem to have permeated Eaton's employment decisions; today, it is a corporation with a male-dominated culture and not a single woman on its 44-member General Sales Force management team.
Aiming to put an end to the rampant gender discrimination at Eaton, two former female Sales Engineers filed a $150 million class action discrimination lawsuit against the company and three of its male managers today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Plaintiffs, Amy Gaitane and Mahasti Koosha, live in New Jersey and worked in Eaton's New York and New Jersey offices.
Eaton is a power management company with sales of $13.7 billion in 2010. Its sales engineers sell Eaton's electrical distribution, generation and power quality equipment and engineering and support services to the company's many customers.
Plaintiffs Gaitane and Koosha allege that Eaton engages in systemic discrimination against its female sales employees. The lawsuit is intended to change Eaton's discriminatory pay and promotion policies and practices, as well as its unlawful hostile work environment for female employees. The Plaintiffs are filing this action on behalf of a class of hundreds of current and former female sales employees nationwide who have worked in Eaton's electrical division from early 2008 through the date of judgment.
The women and the class are represented by Janette Wipper, Siham Nurhussein, and Deepika Bains of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP.
"Although Eaton publicly claims that it 'fosters an inclusive environment that respects individual differences,' this is a gross misrepresentation of Eaton's actual work environment," said Ms. Wipper, class counsel in the case. "In reality, Eaton's actions toward women could not be less inclusive. Not one of the 44 members of Eaton Electrical's General Sales Force management team is female, although women comprise approximately twenty percent of the sales employees in the U.S."
Despite their exemplary performance, Plaintiffs Gaitane and Koosha were passed over for promotions, paid less than their male peers, and excluded from career-enhancing opportunities that would have resulted in greater recognition and compensation. Eaton's male managers also assigned less lucrative accounts to Ms. Gaitane, Ms. Koosha and other female sales employees, which had a negative impact on their earning potential and performance evaluations.
By contrast, Eaton's male managers took great interest in the development of their male colleagues. Male employees were invited to sports bars, cigar bars, entertainment venues, and golf clubs, where they discussed company business with their managers on the company's tab. Plaintiffs Gaitane and Koosha and other female employees at Eaton were systematically excluded from these "team-building" functions.
The company's male managers regularly referred to female sales engineers as "the bitches." One manager explained to Ms. Koosha that because she was of Iranian ancestry, she did not understand that bitch was an endearing term. Because of incessant gender-based harassment which induced extreme work-related stress, Ms. Koosha suffered a heart attack in 2009 and has undergone numerous bypass surgeries.
"Adding insult to injury, when Ms. Koosha and Ms. Gaitane complained, the company's HR department turned the tables on them and they were treated as the problem," said Deepika Bains, one of the attorneys representing the women. "Heaped on top of a blatantly discriminatory and hostile work environment was retaliatory action, ultimately forcing Ms. Koosha to resign and Ms. Gaitane to be terminated."
"We are optimistic that this suit will bring justice to Ms. Gaitane, Ms. Koosha, and other current and former female sales employees, and will result in positive changes at Eaton so that in the future, these women will be given the opportunities and support they so richly deserve," said Siham Nurhussein, another attorney for Plaintiffs and the Class.
Ms. Gaitane and Ms. Koosha are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for themselves and the class, including back pay and front pay; compensatory, nominal, and punitive damages; and attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses.
Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP (SWH) is a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in some of the major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters.
SOURCE Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP