FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: MIRA WEINSTEIN , 202-331-0066 X 724; DIANE MINOR, x773
NOW leaders are calling on the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) to vote at their meeting tomorrow to eliminate mandatory arbitration of employment discrimination cases.
Current NASD policy requires most employees' charges to be heard behind closed doors by industry-sponsored arbitrators. Most arbitrators have no training or expertise in civil rights laws and have no obligation to apply such laws.
"Mandatory arbitration effectively guts the civil rights laws," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "It allows the securities industry to lag behind other professional fields in hiring, working conditions and promotion of women and people of color."
Ireland testified against mandatory arbitration at a June meeting of an advisory committee to the NASD. The committee recommended exempting discrimination claims from the arbitration requirement.
NOW named Wall Street giant Smith Barney a "Merchant of Shame" in its ongoing Women- Friendly Workplace Campaign, in part because of Smith Barney's leading role in defending the mandatory arbitration policy. Smith Barney also faces a massive sex discrimination lawsuit, which employees filed as a class action in an attempt to have their claims heard by a jury in open court. At a recent national conference, NOW honored plaintiffs in the lawsuit with "Woman of Courage" awards.
"Smith Barney and the traditionally white, male securities industry could set an important example by renouncing an unfair approach other businesses are starting to mimic," Ireland said.
Ireland is available on Thursday for comment on the NASD's meeting and vote. Please call NOW's press department for further schedule information.
Her full testimony is available through NOW's web site at http://www.now.org/issues/wfw/nasd-testimony.html.
Link to this release at http://www.now.org/08-97/08-06-97.html.
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