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Publix Grocery Stores Charged With Discriminating Against Women Employees.

TAMPA, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 19, 1995--Eight women, all current and former employees of Publix Super Markets Inc., filed a class action suit today charging the Fortune 500 grocery chain with discriminating against its approximately 45,000 women employees by denying them equal pay, desirable job assignments, promotions, and management opportunities. The women charge that Publix segregates its jobs according to sex and hires women into lower paying dead- end cashier and clerk positions, while men are hired into or assigned to higher paying positions and put on a career track. The suit, which the plaintiffs believe to be the largest sex discrimination class action ever brought, was filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa today. Publix, with more than 470 grocery stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, has approximately 93,000 employees and is Florida's largest private employer.

According to the plaintiffs, women employees at Publix are usually clustered in cashier, deli, or bakery jobs and seldom tapped for promotion to management. "After 12 years of working at Publix, even though I was as good as any man, I was no better off than when I started," said Melodee Shores of Polk County. "When I asked for a promotion into management, my manager told me I should stay home and take care of my kids instead," says Carmen Pena of St. Johns County. Darlene Sarmiento of Manatee County reported similar treatment. "I tried to get out of the cashier jobs and on to the stock crew so that I could get promoted into management, but none of my managers would give me a chance."

The plaintiffs also charge that Publix has no system for announcing job opportunities within the stores, thereby precluding women from applying for openings for which they would be qualified. "How can you apply for a job when you don't know it's open?" said Deborah Crutcher of Pinellas County. "I have asked for promotions over and over since 1989, but I have been stuck in my cake decorator position at Publix." Other plaintiffs reported that men they trained were promoted into jobs over them. Darlene Sarmiento reported being told women aren't capable of doing the better jobs. In fact, her assistant manager said, "women are good for having sex and that's about it."

Plaintiffs also report being subjected to sexual harassment. A male manager told Susan Sharp of Pinellas County that he would give her a promotion if she submitted to his sexual demands. Similarly, a male district manager made sexual overtures to Deborah Crutcher when she informed him of her interest in a promotion. In addition to Melodee Shores, Deborah Crutcher, Darlene Sarmiento, Carmen Pena and Susan Sharp, the named plaintiffs in the suit include Janet McClung of Orange County, Vicky Goodson of Sarasota County, and Margery Terry of Lee County, Ga.

"Publix claims that it treats its employees like family, but in this family women are still kept in the kitchen," said plaintiffs' attorney Charles G. Burr of Tampa. "The personal service that makes Publix so successful shouldn't come at the expense of the 45,000 women who often provide the smiling faces at the service counters."

"Publix's discriminatory policies have limited the employment opportunities of potentially tens of thousands of women in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina," says plaintiffs' attorney Thomas A. Warren of Tallahassee, Fla. "The policies and patterns that these plaintiffs and other women have reported about Publix are classic gender stereotyping which results in women being denied equal employment opportunities because of their sex," concluded Barry Goldstein of Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, attorneys for the plaintiffs.

Since 1992, Publix's employment practices in its Florida stores have been the subject of an ongoing gender discrimination investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The plaintiffs in today's suit allege practices similar to those being investigated by the EEOC.

In a 1992 visual survey of 402 Publix stores, the Florida Consumer Federation found that 99 percent of Publix's store managers were men, 99 percent of Publix's meat managers were men and 82 percent of Publix's bakery managers were men. However, women constitute over 45 percent of the applicant pool.

The attorneys in this case have a history of successfully representing women and minorities in employment discrimination and civil rights suits.

Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller successfully has handled numerous discrimination cases against large employers, including the landmark $132.5 million race discrimination case against Shoney's Inc., in which the firm acted as co-counsel with Thomas A. Warren and over $200 million in a sex discrimination case against State Farm Insurance Co. on behalf of women in California who wanted to be sales agents. The firm also has obtained major awards in sex discrimination cases against other large grocery store chains, including $107 million against Lucky Stores in California. Last year, the firm settled for $34.8 million a race discrimination case on behalf of African American customers of Denny's Restaurants in California.

Thomas A. Warren has specialized in representing women and African Americans in employment discrimination class actions in Florida for nearly 20 years.

Charles G. Burr specializes in litigating employment discrimination, civil rights and voting rights cases.

The attorneys have established a toll-free number, 1-800-677-4947, to assist current and former employees of Publix and other people who may have information about discriminatory employment practices.

CONTACT: Charles G. Burr Law Offices

Nancy Thompson, 813-253-2010


Demchalk & Baller

Leni Doyle of Saperstein, 800-989-0058
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 19, 1995
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