Fighting for Women's Equality

Clients and Defense Contractor Agree to Settlement of Sex Discrimination Class Action

September 1, 2015 | by
The women workers at a defense contractor shipyard in Norfolk, VA are fighting back against an “old boys’ club” mentality that has enabled discrimination and harassment for years.

Read more about the women of BAE and their stories.

Plaintiffs in a sex discrimination class action suit against BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair have filed a motion with the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking preliminary approval of a settlement of the case. The filing marks the first step in resolving the suit, brought on behalf of a class of non-managerial women workers at the Norfolk Virginia BAE Systems shipyard. The amended complaint was filed December 17, 2013 by class representatives Janet Aviles, Stephanie Jackson, Jameika Brown and Kel Sharpe, who have worked in production at the shipyard for decades. Plaintiffs alleged widespread sexual harassment, and discrimination in promotion, by male supervisors and managers. The U.S. District Court denied a motion to strike the class allegations in June 2014.

The plaintiffs are represented by Joshua Friedman of the law firm of Friedman & Houlding and Equal Rights Advocates, a national gender equity advocacy organization.

“The women who brought this case showed incredible courage and leadership. We hope this settlement will be a game changer, not only at BAE, but other shipyards” stated Joshua Friedman of Friedman & Houlding LLP.

If the settlement is approved by the Court, it will require that all promotion decisions be based on job related criteria, such as practical and written tests, and will prohibit supervisors from imposing additional subjective requirements. The settlement agreement will provide a meaningful system for investigation of sexual harassment complaints, and require progressive discipline for violations of the BAE’s anti-harassment policy. The proposed settlement agreement will also provide compensation for alleged gender discrimination, for any woman who was a member of the union, and worked at any time during the period October 5, 2007, through December 31, 2014.

“The settlement is a positive step forward for women at BAE,” said Equal Rights Advocates Executive Director Noreen Farrell. “All workplaces should be hospitable to women, including those traditionally dominated by male workers.”

(Aviles, et al. v. BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, et al, Case No. 2:13-cv-00418 AWA-TEM)

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