Girls Will be Women
IT WAS NOT an auspicious week for local media management. Capping an eight-month investigation, two women who work at WCCO-TV filed a class-action discrimination suit, claiming they and other female employees at the station were denied promotion and equal pay and were subjected to "locker room conduct" on the part of their male bosses. The suit, which also names CBS, the corporation that owns and operates WCCO-TV, WCCO-AM and WLTE-FM, alleges that a "glass ceiling" has prevented women from reaching the upper echelons of WCCO management, and that women are paid up to 40 percent less than men performing comparable jobs, especially in technical areas.

It also claims that WCCO management turned a blind eye to employees using lewd computer graphics and reading pornographic magazines on the job. "There's a culture of intimidation," says Lawrence Schaefer, the plaintiffs' attorney. "The male managers yell and scream at the women and minorities with language that's really profane. They're reduced to tears on a regular basis."

WCCO denied the allegations; in order for the courts to allow a class-action suit to go forward, attorneys must demonstrate that the discrimination allegedly suffered by the current plaintiffs is typical of what other members of the legal class have experienced. Not only does Schaefer believe other women who work for WCCO will join the suit, he charges that the station's employment policies come straight from CBS in New York. If similar patterns can be found at other CBS outlets, the suit could eventually include women in other states.

"There's strength in numbers," notes Schaefer. "It turns the situation from a 'he said, she said' into 'they're saying, and he is denying.'"

Just hours before the suit was filed, female reporters and editors at the Star Tribune settled a longstanding dispute with newspaper management over gender-related pay equity issues. The Strib agreed to cough up $500,000 in back pay to 72 women, plus attorneys' fees. The newspaper will also make $125,000 in pay increases to some of the women and will establish new procedures for dealing with equity and discrimination issues in the future.

YOU MAY RECALL that last year's strike by local bus drivers was prompted in large part by the insistence of Metropolitan Council Transit Operations management that it needed the flexibility to hire more part-time personnel. Yet those part-time drivers have been so hard to come by that MCTO has been paying thousands of dollars in cash incentives just to get prospective employees to enter its training program. According to bus company records, just seven months after this incentives program was initiated, nearly a third of the 182 drivers who were paid anywhere from $250 to $500 apiece to join MCTO have already left the company. Despite this rather dubious retention rate, the Met Council last week approved a six-month extension in the hiring incentives program, agreeing with the bus company's claim that it was "a reasonable way to fulfill the business needs of MCTO." Meanwhile, despite a 10 percent cut in service miles over the past 18 months, full-time drivers continue to pile up the overtime.

FOLLOWING THE PASSAGE of last year's Omnibus Crime Bill, the Minnesota Legislature formed a "work group" charged with creating guidelines for the disposition of juvenile records by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Although the group's proposal doesn't veer far from prevailing wisdom--decisively favoring punishment over rehabilitation--it does offer some modest protection. According to Karen McDonald, director of criminal justice information systems at the BCA, one of the group's recommendations is a statute that would specify how to seal and expunge a juvenile record. "Current law states that an adjudicated record has to be kept until the offender is 28. But what if the individual is 23, has turned his life around, and is trying to get a job but this keeps popping up?" she asks. The members of the task force also recommend giving electronic access to records, witness statements, and the like to public defenders, and additionally requests that judges and attorneys clearly explain all charges and their ramifications to offenders. "There are people out there who don't know if they've been convicted on a felony or a misdemeanor charge," she says. CP

Items contributed by Beth Hawkins, Britt Robson, and Mary Ellen Egan.

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