Sex discrimination can be expensive. For many years the denial of equal opportunity has deprived women of better wages. Now State Farm Insurance Co. must pay at least $1.3 million, and possibly millions more, because it denied 1,113 women's applications for sales jobs in California between 1974 and 1987. There is a lesson here for employers: It's far better to give everyone a chance to use his or her talents than to pay the price later for not doing so, both in lost sales and in legal settlements.
The story is all too familiar. The women whose suit against State Farm was just settled were told that they needed college degrees to get the higher-paying sales jobs; men were often hired to fill those jobs without college degrees. Women were told that they might have to move; men were not told that. The result: Women were passed up for jobs that often pay as much as $75,000 a year.
One of the plaintiffs, Muriel E. Kraszewski of Long Beach, now works for another insurance firm. She said that she filed a complaint in 1975 and joined in the suit four years later because she did not want others to be treated as she had been. In 1985 a federal judge ruled that the company, based in Bloomington, Ill., discriminated against women. This week the company agreed to pay Kraszewski, Wilda Tipton of Ventura and the estate of a Palo Alto woman $420,822 each. Women not specifically named in the suit must prove that they were better qualified than the men hired for the jobs that they sought before they can collect damages.