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1/27/1997 - Grocery Chain Pays $81.5 Million to Settle Class-Action Sex-Bias Suit

The Florida based Publix Super Markets Inc. has agreed to pay $81.5 million to settle a class-action sex discrimination suit. Female employees brought the suit claiming that the chain, which operates 534 stores in the Southeast, placed them in dead-end jobs and denied them promotions. The women also claimed that they were given poor reviews because of their gender, were treated harshly when pregnant and were given more severe treatment when punished than men. Twelve plaintiffs, who originally brought the suit, settled with the chain; the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission joined the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs. Approximately 150,000 female employees are eligible to seek a share of the settlement.

In the past few years, other supermarket chains have also settled large sex-bias suits. In 1994 Lucky Stores Inc., based in California, paid $107 million to approximately 12,000 female employees. Also in 1994, Safeway Stores Inc. paid $7.5 million to approximately 4,000 female employees. Albertson's Inc. settled a sex-bias suit for $32.5 million to settle a sex-bias suit involving 3,500 women. The Oakland based law firm, Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baler initiated all of the lawsuits.


1/27/1997 - Woman Who Brought Aberdeen Sex Scandal Receives Honorable Discharge

The Army has honorably discharged for hardship reasons Jessica Bleckley, the eighteen year-old who claimed that a drill sergeant at Aberdeen Proving Ground sexually harassed and threatened to kill her. Bleckley’s claims sparked an investigation into Aberdeen and has made the Army the focus of several investigations related to sexual harassment. Since her allegations, four instructors at Aberdeen have been charged with sexual crimes, including rape.


1/27/1997 - Laws Covering Parental Custody Often Shut Out Lesbian Mothers

For years lesbian and gay rights advocates have fought for courts to award once married homosexuals legal recognition of parenting rights. Now, Gay rights advocates have a somewhat different problem - lesbians and gay men who break up with their same-sex partners and seek custody of children which the couple adopted or gave birth to as a result of artificial insemination during the relationship. The National Center for Lesbian Rights reports that more and more lesbians and gays who have formed families without legal recognition often end up without any legal recourse after a break-up. In 1991 a northern California state appeals court rejected arguments that a lesbian should be given legal standing to seek parental rights for her child because she was the de facto parent of two children born to her former partner during their relationship. The court ruled that to extend her the legal definition would "expose other natural parents to litigation brought by child care providers of long standing, relatives, successive sets of stepparents or other close friends of the family."


1/27/1997 - Kentucky Legislature to Consider Series of Anti-Abortion Bills

The Kentucky Legislature will consider a host of anti-abortion bills in the 1998 legislative session. The new Senate leader, Larry Saunders (D-Louisville), said recently that while he does not expect bills which restrict access to abortions all together to pass, he does expect two anti-abortion bills to pass. One would mandate a 24 hour waiting period for women and another deals with increased regulations of abortion clinics.


1/27/1997 - FBI Investigates Oklahoma Abortion Clinic Bombing

In light of the January 16th bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken over the investigation of the January 18th bombing of a clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On January 20, the FBI released a tape recording of a male caller who claimed responsonbility for two abortion clinic bombings last September in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The man said, "Yesterday, I firebombed your abortion clinic. Next time, I'll blow it clean off the map. Me and my buddies are out to get you. You better tell your employees it's going to get dangerous." The FBI hopes the release will lead to the identification of the man's voice. Abortion rights groups have condemned the bombings as acts of terrorism.

The Tulsa Reproductive Services Clinic was bombed on January 1, 1997 and again on January 19th. The abortion clinic, which offers a variety of family planning services, sustained minor damage and was closed for an afternoon after a bomb went off at the back of the clinic. No one was injured, and police do not yet have any suspects.

The bombing came three days after an Atlanta abortion clinic was bombed twice and a month after an abortion doctor in New Orleans was stabbed fifteen times around the neck, chest and shoulders by an anti-abortion extremist.


1/24/1997 - Mammogram Panel Produces Hung Jury

A special panel convened by the National Institutes of Health concluded on January 23rd to leave the decision of whether or not women in their forties should receive mammograms to the women themselves. The panel decided that it could not recommend that women in their forties should definitely or should definitely not have mammograms. Some specialists argue that the mammograms can provide early detection crucial to saving women with breast cancer. Others argue that the benefits are outweighed by false positives which lead to unnecessary treatments and surgery.

The panel did agree that women over fifty should have regular mammograms and that women under thirty should not have them.


1/24/1997 - Hawaii House Bans Same-Sex Marriages

On January 23rd, the Hawaii House of Representatives voted 44 - 7 to approve an amendment to the state constitution which would outlaw same-sex marriages. Lawmakers, in an effort to undo recent court rulings, are now sending the expedited measure to the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily. If approved by the Senate, the amendment would go before voters in November of 1998. In 1993 the state's high court ruled that a measure banning same-sex marriages violated the state Constitution's equal protection clause


1/24/1997 - Air Force Colonel Faces Court-Martial for Sexual Harassment

Col. David C. Raunhecker, one of the highest ranking officials at a Florida Air Force base, faces a court-martial on January 24th for allegedly fondling and kissing a female captain against her will. Raunhecker was removed from command last year after Lisa Saturno, one of his top aides, accused him of the harassment. Saturno resigned last year. Raunhecker is officially charged with having an unprofessional relationship with his secretary, maltreatment of a subordinate, indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer.


1/24/1997 - Vatican Presents Its Case Against Female Priests

Though the Vatican has tried for years to make the issue of ordaining women go away, the issue won't die. On January 24th, the Vatican presented its case and announced the release of a book which gathers together church documents on the subject and "scholarly" essays on why women will not be ordained as priests. Bishop Angelo Scola commented at a news conference, "The church does not have the power to modify the practice, uninterrupted for 2000 years, of calling only men to the ministering priesthood, in that this was wanted directly by Jesus." He cites that Jesus chose only men for the 12 apostles and that priesthood is "objectively linked to the male sex of Jesus."


1/23/1997 - Dynamite Found in Atlanta Clinic Bombs

CBS News, citing unidentified sources, reports that dynamite was used in both bombs which exploded at an Atlanta abortion clinic. The New York Times also reported that the bombers used ten to twenty sticks of dynamite in each attack. The dynamite used is rarely used by amateurs and requires a federal permit to carry across state lines. Investigators are currently trying to ascertain how the explosives were obtained.

The Atlanta Northside Family Planning Services clinic experienced severe damage after it was bombed on January 16, 1997. A second bomb exploded approximately an hour later in a nearby dumpster. There is some speculation that the first bomb was intended to level the building and the second one was intended to kill people who arrived on the scene after the first bombing.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and Tipper Gore condemned recent acts of violence against abortion clinics at NARAL's celebration of the January 22nd twenty-fourth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Speaking just hours after an explosion near a Washington, DC Planned Parenthood clinic, Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed outrage at recent acts of domestic terrorism involving bombs at abortion clinics in Atlanta, Georgia; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Washington, D.C. The Gores and Rodham Clinton stood up for a woman's right to choose and condemned violent acts performed to prevent threaten and intimidate women, preventing them from exercising their constitutional right to abortion.


1/23/1997 - Albright Unanimously Confirmed by Senate

Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State on January 22 after the Senate voted 99 to 0 to confirm her to the cabinet. She immediately choose two highly experienced officials for the top jobs at the State Department. Thomas Pickering, a senior professional diplomat in the Foreign Service will serve as the secretary for political affairs, the third-ranking job in the State Department. Stuart Eizenstat, who has recently served as the under secretary of commerce for international affairs, will become under secretary for economic affairs in the State Department. Albright has also chosen her former chief of staff Elaine Shocas to serve her as chief of staff at the State Department.


1/23/1997 - Albright Unanimously Confirmed by Senate

Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State on January 22 after the Senate voted 99 to 0 to confirm her to the cabinet. She immediately choose two highly experienced officials for the top jobs at the State Department. Thomas Pickering, a senior professional diplomat in the Foreign Service will serve as the secretary for political affairs, the third-ranking job in the State Department. Stuart Eizenstat, who has recently served as the under secretary of commerce for international affairs, will become under secretary for economic affairs in the State Department. Albright has also chosen her former chief of staff Elaine Shocas to serve her as chief of staff at the State Department.


1/23/1997 - West Point Cadet on Trial for Raping Female Cadet

On January 22, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point begun a court martial against a male cadet accused of raping a female cadet during a party. The female cadet alleges that James P. Engelbrecht forced himself on her even though she told him repeatedly to stop and to get off of her. This is the first rape trial at the academy in which a cadet is accusing another cadet since the academy has admitted women in 1976. The panel of seven Army officers, all male, will decide the case; five of them must find the defendant guilty for there to be a conviction.


1/23/1997 - Supreme Court Puts Off Deciding Whether or Not to Hear Affirmative Action Case

This week, the Supreme Court was expected to announce whether or not it would hear Board of Education of Piscatony v. Taxman, a case which could sharply restrict affirmative action programs. Instead, the Court asked the Justice Department whether it believes federal law allows an employer to prefer an African American worker over a white one, if the workplace is already racially balanced. It could take months for the Justice Department's response.


1/23/1997 - Italian Cabinet Votes to Allow Women in Military

On January 22, the Italian cabinet voted to allow women to serve as soldiers in the country's armed forces. It also voted to allow men drafted for military service to perform community service instead. The draft law now goes to parliament for passage.


1/22/1997 - Device Explodes Near Planned Parenthood Clinic in D.C.

At 7:45 a.m. on January 22, the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, a device exploded one block from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., one mile from the White House. Just days after two bombs exploded near a clinic in Atlanta, Georgia and another bomb exploded in a Tulsa, Oklahoma clinic, police say a man carrying the device was walking toward the clinic and fled in the direction of the Mayflower Hotel after the device exploded. The man has said he found the device in a lamp post. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) planned to hold a luncheon in honor of the anniversary with Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance later that afternoon in the Mayflower Hotel.

Abortion rights activists have been on alert and defending clinics all weekend in anticipation of increased abortion clinic violence surrounding the Roe v. Wade anniversary. Anti-abortion activists planned to march down Constitution Avenue in the afternoon of the 22nd in conjunction with the “March for Life.”


1/22/1997 - Military Sex Scandal Widens

The Army announced January 21 that it has charged a fourth instructor at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground with sexual misconduct. Maintenance Instructor U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Theron Brown has been charged with adultery and sodomy involving two female trainees and a female civilian and with violating rules against socializing with students. Brown will face a court-martial and up to six months in prison.

In Charleston, South Carolina, federal court records show that officials at the Citadel military college knew about allegations of sexual harassment made by Jeanie Mentavlos months before she withdrew from the college in January. Mentavlos and Kim Messer, the other female cadet who left the school this month because of sexual harassment, have stated that the Citadel knew about the harassing behavior and failed to put a stop to it. The Citadel has asserted that it responded to the complaints promptly, yet at a January 8 Justice Department oversight hearing on the integration of women at the Citadel, Col. Joseph Trez admitted under cross-examination that he met with Mentavlos’ father in October to hear complaints that Jeanie was experiencing sexual harassment.

Mr. Mentavlos agreed to lessen the charge against a cadet to shoved a piece of cardboard in his daughter’s face because he was told the cadet had a record of “outstanding performance.” Yet in the 13 months previous to the offense, the cadet had been punished for both major and minor violations which Trez dismissed at the hearing as happening “a long time ago.” After the charges against the cadet were downgraded from major to minor violation, the cadet retaliated against Mentavlos by shoving a rifle against her face, causing her to hit her head against a wall, and forced her to hold the rifle in front of her while in tears.

Valorie K. Vojdik, lawyer for the women who sued to gain admittance to the Citadel, and lawyers for Mentavlos and Messer say the Citadel’s failure to stop the harassment is indicative of a larger pattern of negligence on the part of the school toward protecting the women cadets. The lawyers maintain the state has appropriated no extra money to aid in the process of assimilating the women into the formerly all-male college. The state supported the Citadel’s fight against coeducation.


1/22/1997 - Former Hooters Waitress Sues for Sexual Harassment

Phillips quit after the slapping incident at the bar, and her lawyers are seeking class-action status on behalf of some 1,000 “Hooters Girls.” The lawsuit states, “Hooters put its female employees at risk of sexual harassment through its uniforms it required them to wear and the marketing of its restaurants.” Phillips said she was aware that her job required her to wear shorts and a t-shirt, “but in return,” Phillips stated, “Hooters agreed to protect me from sexual harassment. I was not protected, and when I tried to complain, I was told I had no federal rights.” The restaurant claims that the signing of the Hooters policy means employees give up their right to pursue sexual harassment claims. Phillips was sued by Hooters because Phillips did not agree to arbitrate under the company’s policy. Lawyers want to prohibit the company from using its arbitration policy.

Phillips is seeking back pay and benefits, reinstatement and compensatory and punitive damages. Another former Hooters waitress in Madison, WI filed a federal lawsuit on the same day, alleging that she was fired for complaining about sexual harassment from male employees.

The phone number for Hooters employees to call for more information about joining Phillips’ suit is 1-800-749-3141.


1/22/1997 - Woman Nominated to Head National Park Service

Yosemite Superintendent B.J. Griffin has been nominated to head the National Park Service by Congressman George Radanovich (R-CA) whose district includes Yosemite. Griffin is the first woman superintendent of the 104-year-old national park and has been described by Radanovich as “one of the most effective people ever to serve the public interest at Yosemite.” Radanovich wrote to Deputy Secretary of the Interior John Garamendi to recommend Griffin after Roger Kennedy resigned as National Park Service director last week. New legislation requires that the director be confirmed by the Senate


1/22/1997 - Judge Rejects Doubled Bail for Alleged Rapist

Alex Kelly, the alleged rapist of two high school girls in the late 80s, will face a $1 million bond instead of the $2 million sought by the prosecution. In 1987, Kelly fled to Switzerland just before going on trial for the rapes and remained a fugitive in Europe for eight years. Kelly is scheduled to be retried in April after his first trial for one of the rapes ended in a hung jury in November.


1/21/1997 - Albright Unanimously Confirmed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted to confirm Madeleine Albright as the first female Secretary of State of the United States on January 20th. The full Senate should vote on her confirmation by January 22nd. The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del) said that he expected her confirmation to "sail through the senate."


1/21/1997 - Martin Luther King Jr. III Starts Pro-Affirmative Action Group

In response to Ward Connerly's founding of a national group to wipe out equal opportunity programs for women and people of color, Martin Luther King's eldest son has founded and will head Americans United for Affirmative Action. The new Atlanta-based group will work to preserve affirmative action. King commented on January 18th near the memorial of his father, "Our country is currently embroiled in a backlash against hard-won gains made during the civil rights movement - namely, affirmative action."


1/21/1997 - Woman Sues Estee Lauder Exec for Harassment

Estee Lauder employee Barbara Gretzen filed a $1 million sexual harassment against a top male executive of the company on January 14 in Manhattan Supreme Court. Gretzen’s suit alleges that she had to take a job in another division at a lower salary in order to avoid unwanted sexual advances by Aramis men’s division president Robert Nielsen. According to Gretzen’s suit, Nielsen allegedly told Gretzen that he had an erotic dream about her and had “sexual thoughts” about her constantly. Gretzen alleges that Nielsen cost her a promotion to executive assistant for Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder and also relinquished the possibility of a promotion to marketing after Gretzen told her his unwanted advances made her uncomfortable.


1/21/1997 - Global Summit for Women Draws Hundreds to Miami

Hundreds of women from 44 nations around the world attended the Women’s Global Summit in Miami January 9-12. The conference, organized by Irene Natividad, focused on economic empowerment for women. The summit addressed the issue of how to define and market indigenous natural human resources and skills. Participants learned that women’s unpaid work is estimated at $11 trillion while the global informal economy itself is worth $17 trillion. Jobs, work, and family were cited as major concerns for women around the world. One of the successes mentioned was the fact that 400 women-owned businesses in the Philippines saw income increase of 78 percent. In Japan, president of General Engineering Company Mr. Mitsumasa Kawai opened a school for entrepreneurs after receiving 4,000 applicants for four grants to enable women to start their own businesses. Kawai noted at the conference that many Japanese women who study in the U.S. choose not to return to Japan because “Japan is very much behind the U.S.” in economic opportunities for women. Yet women comprise only 10 percent of almost 13,000 corporate officers in 500 of the largest companies in the U.S., according to the group Catalyst. The Global Summit offered women the opportunity to learn about economic opportunities for women around the world.


1/20/1997 - Oklahoma Abortion Clinic Bombed

The Reproductive Services Clinic was bombed on January 1, 1997 and again on January 19th. The abortion clinic, which offers a variety of family planning services, sustained minor damage and was closed for an afternoon after a bomb went off at the back of the clinic. No one was injured, and police do not yet have any suspects. A woman, identified only as Terry, who has worked at the clinic for fourteen years was outraged and commented, "Certain groups would consider this a victory, but what it is is an outright attack on women's rights."

This bombing came three days after an Atlanta abortion clinic was bombed twice and a month after an abortion doctor in New Orleans was stabbed fifteen times around the neck, chest and shoulders by an anti-abortion extremist.