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NEW YORK -- A lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York claims that Gristede's Operating Corp. here, owner of Gristedes supermarkets, confined female workers in lower-paying positions and failed to promote them to management jobs, according to Outten & Golden, LLP, a New York law firm representing former employees of the retailer.
Plaintiffs Vanessa Hill and Margaret Anderson, both Bronx residents, allege violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Hill and Anderson were part-time cashiers at Gristedes in Manhattan; Hill worked for the chain from February 1999 to January 2004, and Anderson from November 2004 to December 2004.
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According to the suit, the retailer places female job applicants in cashier and bookkeeper positions, while placing male applicants in clerk positions. The complaint further charges that Gristedes offers the predominantly male clerks more opportunities to work extra hours, full-time work, and promotion to management than it provides for the mostly female cashiers and bookkeepers.
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, a spokesman for the grocer said: "Gristede's was made aware of this lawsuit on Tuesday afternoon. Gristede's does not engage in discriminatory employment practices. We may comment further on the suit after our attorneys have had an opportunity to study it."
The Gristedes spokesman continued: "Gristede's wishes to point out that Vanessa Hill and Margaret Anderson were discharged for cause by Gristede's after the company conducted a thorough investigation. They previously filed discrimination claims against Gristede's with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which did not act on their complaints."
Outten & Golden said that it will seek to have the case certified as a class action that includes current and former female Gristedes employees.
Noted plaintiffs' attorney Piper Hoffman: "We allege that the discrimination has been companywide and pervasive. We believe the evidence will show that Gristedes intentionally segregates women into positions that pay less and keeps them out of management." She added that the class action, which would cover the period from October 2003 "to the present and beyond," could include over 3,000 women.
Hoffman told Progressive Grocer that in addition to seeking back pay, recompense for emotional distress, and punitive damages, the plaintiffs wanted Gristedes to "change its ways," through the implementation of policies that would eliminate current workplace inequality and eradicate past discrimination.