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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ohio's Eaton Corp: Ex-Exec's Sex-Bias Claim Tossed

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- A former Eaton Corp. executive who contends she was pushed out of the Cleveland-based industrial manufacturer in 2003 because the 60,000-employee company's culture is hostile to high-achieving women has lost her federal sex-discrimination lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani dismissed the case earlier this week in Detroit, court records show.

Eaton is a Fortune 500 firm and one of the largest corporations in Ohio. Its headquarters are on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland. The lawsuit was an effort to show how one female executive viewed her male colleagues, and how she felt she ran into a glass ceiling.

Gloria Wandyez, an inventor, went to work for Eaton in 2001 as director of business development and strategic planning for the corporation's Engine Air Management Operations. Her duties include evaluating outside opportunities such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions. She was responsible for preparing Eaton's business plan and managed its Information Technology department.

In the lawsuit, Wandyez said her position was eliminated by a 2003 reduction in force that cut eight jobs. She claimed she witnessed and complained about a general atmosphere of discrimination against women, and said the company's female workers were "on the defensive because the male employees made it difficult for them to do their work. Male employees were 'extremely negative' toward women and subjected women to 'extremely harsh treatment.'"

She said she was a female vice president treated harshly at a management conference and that men bet on how long some women would last. At a sexual harassment training session, she said male workers, who were based in Italy, complained they would have nothing to talk about if they could not discuss sex.

But Judge Battani said there was the evidence was not strong enough to show a corporate culture of discrimination. Battani found that the vice president who eliminated Wandyez's job, Larry Iwan, did not discriminate.

''Here, there is no evidence that Iwan's attitudes were shaped by upper level management holding bias against women in the workplace. Comments made by employees reporting to Iwan cannot be imputed to Iwan in the termination decision. Nor do such comments create an inference of a discriminatory state of mind. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to show that the elimination of her position was mere pretext for discrimination,'' Battani wrote. ((U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Case No. 04-60267.)

The judge also said that Wandyez may have made comments about a ''good old boy network," but she never filed a complaint.

"It is undisputed that Eaton's policy prohibits all forms of discrimination and harassment. It is undisputed that Plaintiff was aware of the policy. Finally, it is undisputed that Plaintiff never employed the complaint procedure despite her familiarity with it."

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