Posted November 14th, 2018.
As It Appeared OnLaw and More
By Jane Genova
Distressed Avon should be braced for lots more stress.
This time it will be on its branding as a business that empowers women.
Eventually, the pressure also could be financial if there is a verdict against it in a jury trial or if it ponies up a hefty settlement.
In addition, there could be a massive shakeup at the top. Male leadership could be replaced with females attuned to the specific needs of employees who are mothers or are in the process of becoming a mother.
For a while now, legal and business media outlets have been covering the initial litigation by Caroline Ruiz. She had been recruited by Avon for a procurement position. After a short time with the corporation she requested special accommodations such as working partly from home because of a high-risk pregnancy. She intended to continue fulfilling all her duties. Long story short, soon she was fired, allegedly for performance reasons. She had come to Avon with a great track record.
What grabbed attention is that Avon supposedly is supportive of women. The reality, though, it came out was this: Its leadership is primarily male. And, according to Ruiz it was operating on the male experience at work as the default standard.
Since then, the Wigdor law firm, representing Ruiz, has expanded that individual lawsuit into a putative class action, which had been filed yesterday. It requests a jury trial.
The amended complaint has two clients and three other possibilities, so far. Many more could participate.
All plaintiffs contend they suffered professional discrimination and some were actually penalized because of issues associated with maternity and child care (e.g. breastfeeding). Here are more details from Jason Grant at Law.com. And, here is a copy of the amended lawsuit.
The timing of this lawsuit couldn’t be worse for Avon.
Not only is it struggling for a turnaround in a changing global cosmetic marketplace.
This, of course, is the era when employment matters related to females are totally high profile.
#MeToo is just the tip of the iceberg.
More a symbol of the changing values in the workplace is the risk top professional women have been taking in filing gender-bias lawsuits against their well-known employers. That kind of risk-taking is relatively new. But it is being embraced by more female players.
For instance, brandname employment-discrimination lawyer David Sanford currently is representing, among others, female partners in law firms who contend gender-based bias. That ranges from compensation to promotability.
Sanford had been a pioneer in that, taking on GE in 2007. Unthinkable then, lawyer in the GE legal department – Lorene Schaefer – claimed gender discrimination.
That litigation, requesting $500 million in damages, sought class action status. Hereare more details. GE settled before the complaint went to court.
More recently, Sanford’s Sanford Heisler Sharp has been the law firm which achieved the settlement for Kerrie Campbell, who had been forced out of her law firm when she sued. Since then, she has launched her own boutique law firm and had been a guest speaker at Harvard Law School, discussing that experience.
Avon also has to anticipate a probable informal boycott. I have already steered clear of purchasing its whatever. Like most baby boomer female professionals, I put up with horrific gender bias, standard back then. Litigation wasn’t considered an option by us “good girls.” Instead, we would cry.
Currently, more female professionals have been socialized to think like a lawyer.