WOMEN PREVAIL IN $508 MILLION
SEX DISCRIMINATION CASE
AGAINST THE U.S. GOVERNMENT
(Washington, D.C., March 22, 2000) Plaintiffs in the largest class action case in the history of the Civil Rights
Act announced today that they will accept $508 million to settle the claims of 1100 women who were
denied jobs at the Voice of America and the United States Information Agency because they are
women. The proposed settlement, which is subject to approval by Judge James Robertson of the
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes 23 years after the suit was filed, and 16 years
after the same court found the government guilty of discriminating against women.
Today's agreement in Hartman v. Albright came after the women prevailed in 46 out of the
first 48 individual claims reviewed by the Court, and the government was ordered to pay those class
members back pay and interest totaling $22.7 million. Many of those women were also awarded job
relief and Federal government retirement accounts. The $22.7 million in individual awards will be
paid by the government in addition to the $508 million settlement. Since 1984, the government has
filed and lost two appeals and has been denied a hearing by the Supreme Court. Until today's
settlement, the government had insisted on contesting every woman's claim, one-by-one, before a
court-appointed special master.
Lead attorneys Bruce Fredrickson and Susan Brackshaw of Webster, Fredrickson &
Brackshaw said the trials revealed that the USIA and the VOA regularly manipulated the hiring
process to exclude women. The special master found that the Agency "rigged the system" in favor
of men resorting, in some cases, to test fraud, alteration of test scores, pre-selection of men, and
destruction of key personnel and test files even while the lawsuit was pending.
"There was overwhelming evidence of obvious, persistent, entrenched discrimination," said
Fredrickson. "Highly qualified women with specific relevant experience were routinely rejected in
favor of men with fewer skills and less experience."
"This settlement is a tribute to the commitment and courage of 1100 women who stood
shoulder to shoulder in the face of deep-rooted discrimination and would not surrender even after
two decades of litigation. This day belongs to them," said Brackshaw.
The women applied for jobs as international radio broadcasters, radio broadcast or electronic
technicians, writer/editors, and production specialists between 1974 and 1984. Many of the women
who were denied jobs had been experienced broadcasters from the BBC and other national and
international news outlets, qualified writers and reporters, or experienced technicians and producers
for network television and radio in the United States.
By separate Court order, another portion of the class, those who applied for positions as entry
level Foreign Service Officers during 1978-1983, were entitled to compete for thirty-nine jobs with
the Foreign Service. Those women were appointed during 1992-1994 and are currently on duty at
embassy posts throughout the world.
The attorneys cited examples of USIA and VOA discrimination:
Dona De Sanctis, a Ph.D. and former broadcaster for Vatican Radio in Rome, was rejected in
favor of a male with no experience in journalism, whose qualifying test was "rigged," according
to the special master, and whose previous job experience was as a waiter.
An experienced female broadcaster applying with the VOA was relegated to working for seven
years on a contract basis, without the salary or benefits of full time employment. During this
period three men with little or no broadcasting experience were hired.
Following the trial of the claim of Jahanara Hasan, who applied for a broadcaster position in
the Bangla language, the special master found that the Agency's destruction of test files "plainly
fell outside the regular course of document destruction claimed by the Agency and supports an
inference that test files were destroyed to conceal evidence of discrimination in the test evaluation
process." A number of other trials revealed similar wrongful destruction of documents by the
Agency officials changed the test scores of men to avoid hiring women who actually scored
higher on qualifying written and voice tests.
One woman was required twice to take and pass the qualifying test, but was not considered
for at least two job openings, which the Agency filled with two males based on expired test
scores, in violation of hiring regulations and procedures.
Dilara Hashem, a renowned broadcaster whose career spanned 18 years when she applied for
a Bangla language job with the VOA, was rejected for full-time employment in favor of a male
who failed the qualifying test and whose voice a test evaluator had deemed "monotonous and
artless" and in need of "a lot of coaching."
During a break while taking a qualifying test, a woman applying for a broadcasting position
was harassed by two male employees and told that she "had a lot of nerve" applying. They
accused her of trying to take a job away from a man, stating "You are taking away practically the
bread. . . from a man's mouth, from his family."
In another case, a male who did not speak Czech fluently was moved temporarily into a Czech
broadcaster job, blocking the hiring of an experienced female broadcaster who was a Czech
The $508 million settlement is the largest award in the history of the Civil Rights Act. Under
the law, the government will be required to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees over and above the
amount of the settlement. In addition to the lead attorneys at the firm of Webster, Fredrickson &
Brackshaw, attorneys at Crowell & Moring and at Heller, Huron, Chertkof, Lerner, Simon & Salzman
represented the class of women.
The foregoing is the press release issued on March 22, 2000 by the
Washington, D.C. law firm of Webster, Fredrickson &
Brackshaw which served as counsel to the plaintiffs in this complaint.