Anheuser-Busch Defends Gender Discrimination Suit

jpegIn 2008 when Belgian company InBev bought Anheuser-Busch to form the brewing monstrosity known as AB InBev, Francine Katz had been promoted to vice president of communications and consumer affairs. Her salary was a staggering one million dollars a year and she thought life was grand. That was until after the sale to InBev when she apparently discovered that she was allegedly being paid less than half as much as her male predecessor.

Upon learning of this pay disparity Francine Katz decided to sue Anheuser-Busch for gender discrimination. Ms. Katz is suing for $9.4 million in back pay and damages and nearly $5 million in interest.

Ms. Katz has argued in court that she was paid less than half of what her male predecessor yearned while in the position.

Anheuser-Busch’s lawyers are arguing that the Ms. Katz’s compensation was comparable to similar positions at other similar sized companies, that the scope of the job had shrunk between her and her predecessor.

Her predecessor John Jacob was a former National Urban League president, a member of Anheuser-Busch’s board of directors and confidant to CEO August Busch III. When Ms Katz got the job she was obviously not required to be a part of any of these additional duties.

Jim Bennet, attorney for the mega-brewer claimed, “[Katz] was paid, and paid well, for her position.” Bennet reminded the jury of the lawsuit that Ms. Katz took home $14 million in 2008 after the sale to InBev. A yearly income that seems criminal to those of us outside the highest echelons of corporate stewardship.

Yet Katz’s attorney fired back that her client’s salary was half of Jacob’s even though her own responsibilities went well past simply public relations. More damming to the intentions of America’s largest brewery Katz’s attorney claimed that Francine was a victim of a “boys-club mentality” that excluded her from using the corporate jets, being invited to corporate golf outings, and other social opportunities. Her attorney attempted to illustrate that, “Anheuser-Busch has minimized, understated, and undervalued the work that Francine Katz did.”

The lawsuit is being deliberated on in Missouri and nine of the twelve jurors must agree with Ms. Katz for her to win the lawsuit.

Beer culture in general has both a gender and minority problem. It is not surprising that the stereotypical brewery is a bearded middle class white guy. The stereotype exists because brewing is dominated by bearded middle class white guys. While there are amazing brewers that are the exception to the rule this point stands.

It will be up to the jury of Ms Katz’s claims seem valid but it doesn’t surprise me that at the highest level at Anheuser-Busch there was a culture that was exclusive to women.

Let’s hope that Francine Katz gets what she deserves.\

source: Associated Press