A sex discrimination suit filed by eight female employees in February 1997 was settled yesterday. The plaintiff charged that they were systematically deprived of training, support staff, and other resources because of their sex. They also alleged that many women had returned from maternity leave to find their positions either eliminated or demoted.
Under the settlement agreement, the eight plaintiffs will split $600,000 and will allow any of the 2,500 women employed at Merrill Lynch since 1994 to pursue mediation of complaints with a neutral arbitrator. Women who are unsatisfied with this process may seek compensation in a public hearing. Merrill Lynch has promised to create a multi-million-dollar fund to pay for the settlement of these claims.
Lead Plaintiff Attorney Mary Stowell believes that the Merrill Lynch settlement is superior to the settlement offered by Smith Barney, another powerful brokerage company, last November. "We're delighted the settlement takes the Smith Barney settlement a step forward and does away with mandatory arbitration for future claims and sets up a fair process that is better than court, in which women who have suffered sex discrimination can receive all damages allowed under the law," said Stowell.