Understanding the Struggle of Professional Women
Professional women working their way up the corporate ladder face unique challenges. They need an advocate who understands the legal issues which can arise from these challenges. Women at every stage of their employment relationship trust Schaefer Halleen, LLC to provide them with “state of the art” legal advice, and, more importantly, to aggressively advocate for them when difficult issues arise. As a result, the Firm has developed a deep expertise in effectively navigating through the legal issues often faced by female professionals.
Sexual harassment, unequal pay, gender discrimination, and retaliation are too often obstacles faced by professional women, and these obstacles sometimes get more pronounced as a professional woman climbs the corporate ladder. The lawyers at Schaefer Halleen have deep experience in challenging sexual harassment, unequal pay, gender discrimination, and retaliation at every step of the ladder, from entry-level to the C-Suite.
Client: Group of women integrating a previously male-only workplace.
Problem: This group (numbering over 25), are then subject to overt sexual harassment, which the employer (and the union), do nothing to prevent, even after complaints are raised.
Approach: After numerous efforts at early resolution fail, we prosecute the caes into litigation, alleging sexual harassment on a “class action” basis.
Solution: For the first time in US history, a Court certifies the class, then finds class-wide liability, and we proceed through damage hearings for our client, ultimately securing a resolution by settlement which provides significant remedies to each affected class member.
Long-term impact of Solution: Case is made into a best-selling book (Jenson et al v. Eveleth Mines: The case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law, Doubleday, 2001) and later a movie entitled “North Country,” starring Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson. The published decisions from the Eveleth Mines litigation have benefited victims of sexual harassment throughout the country. Tow lead counsel in that litigation, Jena Boler and Larry Schaefer, are leading the litigation function at Schaefer Halleen, which often results in our sexual harassment clients securing favorable results early and avoiding litigation.
Client: Director-level and above at Target Corporation
Problem: Over the course of the past ten years, we have represented over 50 female Target executives at the Director level or above, including over 15 officer-level female executives, in handling difficult employment issues.
Approach: We have a detailed and intimate knowledge of the policies and practices in place at Target, including the “Income Continuation Plan,” which is available to VP-level and above employees terminated without cause.
Solution: Armed with this knowledge and deep experience, we can assist in negotiating appropriate compensation terms upon hire or promotion, or fashion an “exit strategy” which assists our client in maximizing benefits in making a transition, often securing significant enhancement to ICP terms, or securing waiver of post-employment restrictive covenants.
Client: Numerous C-level Executives at large, mid-sized and small employers
Problem: Serious discrimination, harassment or retaliation issues often arise in these employment relationships, which can result in the need for an “exit strategy.”
Approach: Leaders at this level, many C-level clients, are in a unique and often very powerful position when difficult employment issues arise. The resolution of these issues in potential litigation is a very daunting prospect for the company, and as a result, the leverage this creates when real legal rights are at issue is enormous. Moreover, in small, privately held corporations, minority shareholder and shareholder oppression rights are often implicated, increasing the resulting leverage in early negotiations.
Solution: We have been able to craft solutions protecting our client’s rights, and allowing them to make transitions to other professional opportunities with ample transition benefits, and their career future intact.
Four Pillars of Advocacy for Female Professionals
Female professionals facing issues in each of these areas need an advocate with deep experience, and one who will take a solution-driven approach, rather than prematurely resulting in litigation that can adversely affect the balance of a woman’s career. Schaefer Halleen attorneys provide this advocacy.
This expertise is based on four “pillars” of advocacy, which reflect the difficult challenges unique to women in the workplace.
First, despite extensive training and often state-of-the art policies, the American workplace is not “gender-blind;” double standards for women persist in denying equal opportunity for many women in “male-dominated” fields and positions. Even when representation for women is leadership roles is at or near parity with men, training, advancement and mentoring opportunities are often not provided for women in the same manner as for men.
Second, federal and state laws requiring gender-based “pay equity” are being violated routinely, often without consequence, and this disparity is often more pronounced the higher a woman rises in the corporate hierarchy. This persistent cycle is unfortunately self-perpetuating, as successful women often cannot command the same pay for leadership positions as male counterparts, as the primary consideration in setting pay upon hire or promotion is the pay you received in the last position. This gap therefore generally gets worse over time.
Third, sexual harassment persists in so many workplaces, and most women who have reached positions of leadership can relay difficult experiences they’ve had to overcome in this area. Moreover, recent events may have emboldened men who are difficult to train in this area, and who believe they are entitled to “sexualize” the workplace and objectify female colleagues, without consequence. Schaefer Halleen has a depth of experience in prosecuting sexual harassment cases which is truly extraordinary, including the landmark Jenson v. Eveleth Mines case (the first class action sexual harassment case ever certified by a court), which was adapted into the 2004 movie “North Country”, starring Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson. Schaefer Halleen attorneys Jean Boler and Larry Schaefer were instrumental in leading the prosecution of that seminal case.
Fourth, women often need leave from work more frequently than men, especially as it relates to pregnancy and parenting leave. While the federal and state laws protecting this right are clear that this leave must be granted without penalty, retaliation in this area is often very subtle. A career trajectory may seem altered because of this leave, or adverse action taken may be taken months or even years after the leave. Experienced legal counsel won’t be deterred by these circumstances.
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