Jury sides with A-B in gender discrimination suit

ST. LOUIS - A jury of seven women and five men sided with Anheuser-Busch in a sex discrimination case pitting Francine Katz, sometimes called the queen of beer against her old bosses, at Anheuser-Busch, known as the king of beers.

Katz, the former highest paid female executive at the brewery, filed her suit five years ago and claimed she made significantly less than her male counterparts because of her gender. Jury foreman Dorian Daniels sided with A-B. He said the jury took a hard look at the many spreadsheets, emails and other documents. He said jurors didn't factor in that the suit was over millions of dollars.

"We did understand it was about principles in this case, but the evidence was not enough to single out gender," he said.

Another juror, Andy Jackson, said he was swayed by video testimony of John Jacob, who Katz replaced. Jacob was Katz's mentor but was also a former president of the National Urban League and a civil rights leader who said if he saw discrimination he would have spoken up.

"As a close friend and mentor of Ms. Katz he said he never saw once, any form of discrimination against her in the company," said Jackson.

Jackson said it was tense inside the jury room. At first the votes were evenly split he said.

"But over the course of ten hours the numbers tricked towards the defense," said Jackson.

In a statement issued shortly after the verdict was announced, A-B said the company has always been committed to fair treatment of its employees.

"We are pleased with today's verdict, and the jury's acknowledgment that Francine Katz was always treated and compensated fairly during her 20 years of employment at Anheuser-Busch," said A-B spokesman Adam Warrington.

After the verdict was read, Katz embraced her lawyers and her husband, Simon Katz. She told a small group of reporters off camera, "I am disappointed but I think that all the attention and discussion this lawsuit has sparked is for the good...I hope this lawsuit opens the door for change. We may not have won, but you can't ever win if you don't try."

She said, "All the time she, (Katz) brought her problem to them, they just seemed to ignore her. If they felt it wasn't a gender problem they should have answered her. She kept addressing it and addressing it. I think she deserved what she asked for. To me she did over and beyond that job. Her heart was really for that job," said juror Betty Brezill, who was one of the three to side with Katz.

Jurors heard from three former Ceo's including August Busch the III and his son, August Busch the IV, and Patrick Stokes. Each CEO praised Katz saying she was good at public relations. But that was her job, PR, and nothing more. They all said she was paid well for what she did.

Katz had argued her role was much bigger than traditional public relations because she lobbied lawmakers, attorney's general and testified before congress. She also testified, she helped create anti-drunk driving campaigns that saved lives and changed habits.

Testimony showed Katz made $1 million a year while Jacob was paid $4.5 million. Evidence showed there were two tiers on the key strategy committee. The men were all in tier one, while the two women were on tier two. A-B's President Dave Peacock testified the tier system had nothing to do with gender but instead a person's market rate.

In the end, nine jurors sided with Anheuser Busch after nearly three weeks of testimony and ten hours of deliberation.

Katz's case was among the most high-profile and high-dollar of its kind. So now, there is some speculation over how the verdict may affect future gender discrimination suits.

Some legal analysts say it's a blow to women's rights because it could set a precedent for other women and for businesses. But discrimination attorneys say each case is very different. So, while there is fear the verdict will be discouraging, they say, it shouldn't be.

"In a high profile case like this, when an individual loses, it certainly can discourage others from bringing an action. [But] I don't think the fact that Ms. Katz lost this case means that any other woman who feels she's been unfairly paid is going to lose her case," said attorney Jerry Dobson.

Legal analysts also tell us they believe Katz faced a unique challenge because of her high level of pay. They say it's a challenge that generally does not come up in gender discrimination cases.

You can watch the raw video of the verdict being read below:


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