Trial has begun in St. Louis Circuit Court in a lawsuit brought by Francine Katz, formerly the top-ranking woman executive at Anheuser-Busch, for gender discrimination. The lawsuit alleges that she was being paid less than half the salary of her male predecessor and seeks $9.4 million plus punitive damages. Katz is represented by St. Louis lawyer Mary Anne Sedey. Commentator Anjali Dooley discusses the problems with the trial of a high-profile case like this, including the problem that, notwithstanding the disparity in wages, Katz’s severance package was in the neighborhood of $12.5 million. Dooley suggests that one problem will be trying to get the jurors to relate to the large salaries in this case. Even in a city with a number of women executives, the salaries in this case are very large. “If they cannot relate to her, she may seem a little bit greedy,” Dooley explains.
But there may also be a sentiment that women at all levels in any business need to be paid the same as men for doing comparable work. The task for Anheuser-Busch, represented by James Bennett, is to show that Katz's predecessor in her former job actually had a different role and did more. The task, says Dooley, is to show that Katz was compensated at fair market value for the job she was actually doing.
This is the first time that Anheuser-Busch has faced a lawsuit like this. Katz was the highest paid executive. The trial is expected to last three weeks, says Dooley. Katz has already testified, as has August Busch IV, the last Busch family member to own the company before it was merged with a Belgian brewery giant to become InBev.
[Note: On May 16, a St. Louis jury found in favor of Anheuser-Busch.]
Anjali Dooley is an attorney in St. Louis, Missouri and is an occasional contributor and commentator for The Legal Broadcast Network. For more information on Attorney Dooley, click here. The Legal Broadcast Network, provides online, on-demand, legal video content, provided by attorneys, law professors and others from around the world. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.