Most often, people tend to view the
federal government as Goliath. But the reality is that
government is not monolithic and is largely made up of
a bunch of Davids trying to cast stones against
injustice. One of those stone-throwers is Elizabeth
Grossman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC), and she's got an arm that would make George
Steinbrenner drool. Ms. Grossman represents victims of
discrimination, and she has taken on her share of
giants, including Woolworth's, TWA and Bell Atlantic.
But she made history when she tackled Morgan
Working with a small 7-member legal team and on
behalf of more than 300 current and former female
employees of Morgan Stanley, Ms. Grossman filed a
sexual discrimination suit against the Wall Street
giant in September 2001. She and her team laid out a
simple case: there were few women executives at
Morgan Stanley; they held lesser positions and earned
lower compensation relative to men; and they
experienced slower career advancement, all as a
result of unlawful discrimination.
After three years of arguing the case against Morgan
Stanley's entire in-house counsel team and more than
two dozen lawyers from some of New York's most
high-powered private firms, the firm entered into a
$54 million Consent Decree, EEOC's second largest
gender-bias settlement ever and the largest with a
Wall Street firm. Two million dollars of this
settlement will be set aside to pay for diversity
training and gender management programs.
With more than 60,000 women working in the financial
services industry in New York City alone, the impact
of this settlement extends far beyond a few hundred
women at Morgan Stanley. The federal judge who would
have heard the case if it had gone to trial, Richard
M. Berman of the Southern District of New York, said,
"The Consent Decree, in my opinion, is a watershed in
safeguarding and promoting the rights of women on
Ms. Grossman's victory in EEOC v. Morgan Stanley is
merely the jewel of an impressive 12-year career in
government. She has litigated more than 100 EEOC
lawsuits, many of which established important legal
precedents. Her settlement with Del Laboratories was
the first sexual harassment case to provide more than
$1 million in relief for the victims. As a result of
EEOC v. Bell Atlantic, some 11,000 employees had
credit for retirement restored after taking time off
for pregnancy and maternity leaves. And partly due to
her cases, companies no longer cap health benefits
for workers with AIDS.
With her impressive record, it should be no surprise
that the paper of record for big business, The Wall
Street Journal, has designated this government lawyer
as one of 50 "women to watch."
Ms. Grossman has also been a positive force in her
own work environment. She has combined case
development with training, mounting a mock trial both
to improve advocacy and motivate the legal team. She
also loves her work, and her energy is a positive
influence on her co-workers. "Feeling like you're
doing the right thing 100 percent of the time is
great, "said Grossman. "I'm never working on
something that I don't believe in."
As a New York Times profile on Ms. Grossman said, she
"seems genetically coded to take on the status quo."
Fortunately for our government and "little guys"
everywhere, the status quo she chose to focus on was
the persistent discrimination that still permeates
our society. Cynics would say that discrimination in
the workplace is inevitable and can never be totally
eradicated. Elizabeth Grossman goes to work every day
to prove those cynics wrong, and our country is
stronger for her efforts.
Grossman's contributions were recognized when she
received the Justice and Law Enforcement Medal, one
of the Service to America Medals, on
September 28, 2005.