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Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law

Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law

Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law

作    者
Clara Bingham;  
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所属分类
Social Science > Women's Studies
出版社
Anchor
ISBN-13
9780385496131
ISBN-10
0385496133
出版日期
2003-10
页数
单位
尺寸
2.3 * 19.6 * 12.7
装帧
Paperback
版本
First Edition

Product Description

A petite single mother, Lois Jenson was among the first women hired by a northern Minnesota iron mine in 1975. In this brutal workplace, female miners were relentlessly threatened with pornographic graffiti, denigrating language, stalking, and physical assaults. Terrified of losing their jobs, the women kept their problems largely to themselves—until Lois, devastated by the abuse, found the courage to file a complaint against the company in 1984. Despite all of the obstacles the legal system threw at them, Lois and her fellow plaintiffs enlisted the aid of a dedicated team of lawyers and ultimately prevailed. Weaving personal stories with legal drama, Class Action shows how these terrifically brave women made history, although not without enormous personal cost. Told at a thriller’s pace, this is the story of how one woman pioneered and won the first sexual harassment class action suit in the United States, a legal milestone that immeasurably improved working conditions for American women.

About the Author

Clara Bingham is a former White House correspondent for Newsweek and wrote Women on the hill: Challenging the Culture of Congress. She has written for Talk, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Washington Monthly. She is a graduate of Harvard University.

Laura Leedy Gansler is a lawyer specializing in alternative dispute resolution and securities law. She is a former adjunct law professor at American University. After graduating from Harvard University, Gansler received a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1989.

Review

“Riveting and engrossing. . . . A gripping and unforgettable story.” –San Francisco Chronicle

"Tightly written, extensively researched, and well-plotted. . . .With the pacing of a novel, [the authors] engage the reader from the outset. . . . Fascinating." —Los Angeles Times

"Bingham and Gansler have come up with mesmerizing, complex portraits of the participants in a beautifully paced narrative. . . . Impeccable." —The Washington Post

"Powerful. . . top-notch reporting. . . . Class Action is a compelling court saga and an important historical document."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Riveting, assiduously well-reported. . . A useful reminder of the emotional and psychological cost of waging even the most successful—and justified—lawsuits.” —The New Yorker

“Brilliantly reported, documented, and written. . . . Protagonist Lois Jenson, a worker in a Minnesota mine, is the real Erin Brockovich. Her war is not only that of every woman but of every citizen.”–Bob Woodward, author of All the President’s Men

“A suspenseful page-turner. . . the reader feels a need to know what happens next.” –Newsday

“Tells an important story of how the law can effect change and bring justice into our lives. As women, we are indebted to Lois Jenson for her courage and to Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler for giving it voice.”–Caroline Kennedy, author of In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action

“Anyone who doubts that such a thing as a sexually hostile work environment exists should read . . . Class Action.” –Elle

“Harrowing. . . . An enlightening, fast-moving narrative.” –BookPage

“Always riveting, often horrific. . . . An unsparing look at the real nature of judicial progress–and the costs of even this most dramatic courtroom victories.”–Jeffrey Toobin, author of A Vast Conspiracy

“A suspenseful narrative.” –Time

“A complex account of justice sought–and won. . . . Detailed but not dense: a sturdy addition to the literature of social justice and contemporary women’s issues.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Courageous. . . . Bingham and Gansler’s dogged legal anthropology [shows] you don’t need bright-line heroism and villainy to bundle together disparate acts of everyday degradation, name them . . . and demand justice.” –New York Observer

“Bingham and Gansler’s fast-paced account of the sexual harassment suit that forever altered the law is much stranger than fiction.” –Marie Claire

“Readable and well-reported. . . . A fascinating piece of history.” –The Deseret News

From the Inside Flap

A petite single mother, Lois Jenson was among the first women hired by a northern Minnesota iron mine in 1975. In this brutal workplace, female miners were relentlessly threatened with pornographic graffiti, denigrating language, stalking, and physical assaults. Terrified of losing their jobs, the women kept their problems largely to themselves—until Lois, devastated by the abuse, found the courage to file a complaint against the company in 1984. Despite all of the obstacles the legal system threw at them, Lois and her fellow plaintiffs enlisted the aid of a dedicated team of lawyers and ultimately prevailed. Weaving personal stories with legal drama, Class Action shows how these terrifically brave women made history, although not without enormous personal cost. Told at a thriller's pace, this is the story of how one woman pioneered and won the first sexual harassment class action suit in the United States, a legal milestone that immeasurably improved working conditions for American women.

From the Back Cover

“Riveting and engrossing. . . . A gripping and unforgettable story.” –San Francisco Chronicle

"Tightly written, extensively researched, and well-plotted. . . .With the pacing of a novel, [the authors] engage the reader from the outset. . . . Fascinating." —Los Angeles Times

"Bingham and Gansler have come up with mesmerizing, complex portraits of the participants in a beautifully paced narrative. . . . Impeccable." —The Washington Post

"Powerful. . . top-notch reporting. . . . Class Action is a compelling court saga and an important historical document."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Riveting, assiduously well-reported. . . A useful reminder of the emotional and psychological cost of waging even the most successful—and justified—lawsuits.” —The New Yorker

“Brilliantly reported, documented, and written. . . . Protagonist Lois Jenson, a worker in a Minnesota mine, is the real Erin Brockovich. Her war is not only that of every woman but of every citizen.”–Bob Woodward, author of All the President’s Men

“A suspenseful page-turner. . . the reader feels a need to know what happens next.” –Newsday

“Tells an important story of how the law can effect change and bring justice into our lives. As women, we are indebted to Lois Jenson for her courage and to Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler for giving it voice.”–Caroline Kennedy, author of In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action

“Anyone who doubts that such a thing as a sexually hostile work environment exists should read . . . Class Action.” –Elle

“Harrowing. . . . An enlightening, fast-moving narrative.” –BookPage

“Always riveting, often horrific. . . . An unsparing look at the real nature of judicial progress–and the costs of even this most dramatic courtroom victories.”–Jeffrey Toobin, author of A Vast Conspiracy

“A suspenseful narrative.” –Time

“A complex account of justice sought–and won. . . . Detailed but not dense: a sturdy addition to the literature of social justice and contemporary women’s issues.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Courageous. . . . Bingham and Gansler’s dogged legal anthropology [shows] you don’t need bright-line heroism and villainy to bundle together disparate acts of everyday degradation, name them . . . and demand justice.” –New York Observer

“Bingham and Gansler’s fast-paced account of the sexual harassment suit that forever altered the law is much stranger than fiction.” –Marie Claire

“Readable and well-reported. . . . A fascinating piece of history.” –The Deseret News

From AudioFile

This is a true account of the first sexual harassment case to be certified as a class action. Lois Jenson, the lead plaintiff, and many other women employed in a Minnesota iron mine, faced outrageous mistreatment. To prevail, the women endured a grueling fifteen-year series of legal proceedings. Gabrielle de Cuir exerts commendable effort to present the story's extensive background information in an engaging, well-paced manner. She largely succeeds, despite the wordy text. De Cuir's voice often sounds strained, as if she is torn between constraint and allowing free expression of her own reaction to the horrific conditions the women encountered. Listeners too will find the emotional impact of this book hard to ignore. D.J. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1997, in reversing a lower court decision, federal appellate Judge Donald Lay wrote in a sexual-harassment class-action lawsuit, Jenson v. Eveleth, "The emotional harm, brought about by this record of human indecency, sought to destroy the human psyche as well as the human spirit.... The humiliation and degradation suffered by these women is irreparable." Journalist Bingham's (Women on the Hill: Challenging the Culture of Congress) and attorney Gansler's deeply felt and disturbing narrative is the story of what informed Judge Lay's decision. In 1975, Lois Jenson became one of the first women to work in the iron mines of Minnesota and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. Eveleth Mines was Jenson's employer. The center of the story is the 25-year ordeal Jenson and other women miners underwent: the harshness and callousness of the abuse directed at the women in the uncivilized and misogynist atmosphere of the mine will outrage readers. The equally brutal treatment class members received in the civilized venue of the federal court system, especially by the lawyers for Eveleth, will shock them. The matter-of-fact description of Eveleth's lawyers' assault on Jenson's character during a deposition that inquired about the most intimate details of her life has tremendous immediacy. Because of the personal price the plaintiffs pay, and despite the success of the litigation, this account falls somewhere between a cautionary tale about the dangers facing those who challenge entrenched institutions and a bittersweet celebration of the ultimate effectiveness of the justice system.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

CHAPTER ONE

The Mine

March 1975

It snowed all day and night on Sunday. By dawn, three feet of snow covered the Mesabi Iron Range. Lois Jenson warmed her delicate hands on her coffee mug as she looked out the window of her small house in Virginia, Minnesota. She glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall: 6:15. She drank the last of her coffee and set the mug in the sink. It was Monday, March 25, 1975, Lois's first day of work at Eveleth Mines. If she didn't want to be late, she had better give herself some extra time. The day shift started at 7:00 a.m. In this weather, it would not be a twenty-minute trip.

Luckily, her turquoise Ford Maverick rode high over the road, and though she had to inch along on Highway 37, she could clear most of the snow on the two-lane road, which cut a straight line through the austere landscape of aspen, birch, and jack pine. In the distance she could make out the three twenty-story stacks of the mine's Forbes Fairlane Plant, each mounting a tall white column of smoke in the bitter northern Minnesota sky.

At the town of Forbes she turned onto the long drive leading to the plant. Up ahead, a man flagged her down. She saw his pickup buried in a snow drift and when she discovered that he, too, was on his way to the plant, she gave him a ride. His name was Clarence Mattson. He told Lois he was an electrician and that he'd worked at Eveleth for ten years. He seemed like a decent guy, and he mentioned that the men were bellyaching about how, starting today, they had to behave themselves and clean up their language. He showed her where to park in the employee lot and where she should enter the enormous plant. The truth was, she felt relieved to be arriving at this place accompanied. The closer she got, the more it looked to her like a steel monster with tentacles jutting out from all sides. But, she thought, as she stepped out of the Maverick and into her new life as an iron miner, "If everyone's this friendly, I'm going to like this job."

As Lois and Mattson walked the fifty yards uphill to the main building, they were quickly joined by dozens of men. Most of them were streaming out of the building, dirty and tired after working the midnight shift; the rest were arriving to punch in for the day. Lois noticed that these guys were staring at her. She was twenty-seven years old, with shoulder-length wavy blond hair, blue eyes, and pale, clear skin--a Scandinavian beauty with a slender waist and an elegant long neck. She was used to feeling men's eyes upon her, but this time it was different. It felt as if the men had never seen a woman before.

Lois hurried into the trailer Mattson said was serving as the women's changing room while the mine built its four new female miners a permanent "dry"--a term left over from the days when miners worked deep underground, often in several feet of water. The "dry house" was where they changed into their clean clothes at the end of a shift. Because of the snow, Lois's three female colleagues hadn't made it to their first day of work, so she found herself alone in the small, barely heated room. The starkness of the quarters startled her: twelve steel lockers, a table, four chairs, and a shower, sink, and toilet stall, none of which worked on account of the cold. Waiting for her in the locker room was a white hard hat with a blue stripe and the name jenson printed on the brim in block letters, a pair of men's size six Red Wing work boots, and clunky plastic protective glasses. In the unheated room, she changed into thermal underwear, a sweatshirt, a down vest, gray-and-blue striped coveralls she had bought the day before, the boots, plastic protective glasses, and hard hat. She stood in front of the mirror over the sink and burst out laughing--the person in the mirror looked like an auto mechanic, not a mother. Lois held her breath for a few seconds and walked out into the plant, where her first task was to go on a tour.

The Forbes Fairlane Plant evoked fear in a newcomer. Dominated by four cavernous buildings, the fine crusher, the surge, the concentrator, and the pellet plant, the facility sprawled over 2.3 million square feet--as if all 102 floors of New York's Empire State Building (2.1 million square feet) were spread end to end across the snowy Iron Range. That didn't even include the Thunderbird Mine, two open pits devouring 8,600 acres, from which spewed the iron ore-rich taconite rock that was mined. The plant operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and consumed 70 megawatts of electricity per hour--about as much as the neighboring cities of Virginia, Eveleth, and Hibbing combined. The year the women started, the management of Eveleth Mines had ordered Forbes Fairlane's production capacity be expanded from 2.4 million tons of taconite pellets a year to 6 million tons. Everywhere she looked, Lois could see construction crews at work upgrading and enlarging the facilities.

Taconite rocks contain between 20 and 30 percent iron ore, a foreman explained to her. The taconite was blasted out of "the pit," as everyone called Thunderbird, which was located nine miles away, on the outskirts of the town of Eveleth. There, the boulders were loaded into trucks and brought to the pit's "primary crusher," where they were broken down to the size of footballs. A long line of railroad freight cars transported the rocks from the pit to the plant. The taconite was then carried by conveyor belt to the fine crusher--the first stop in a long, pulverizing process--where the rocks were ground into taconite gravel.

The crusher was outfitted with eighty-foot-high rock-crushing machines and a dizzying maze of conveyor belts. Before she could even take in the scene, Lois was gagging from the black dust that filled the air, like thick smoke in a crowded bar. She could barely distinguish one thunderous machine from another as she struggled to adjust her eyes to the haze. Sticky dust coated her exposed skin and hair, suffocating her. Even more disorienting was the noise. The crusher spoke in a giant, booming voice and the constant smashing of the rocks in the teeth of the machines made earplugs mandatory. Because the dust contained cancer-causing silica, the men also wore white paper masks over their mouths. The earplugs and the mask plunged Lois into a kind of isolation she had never experienced in a workplace before.

She was grateful for the relative peace of the concentrator, her next stop on the tour, until its foreman, John Maki, led her up to the building's catwalks. Unaccustomed to the weight of her work boots, Lois could barely lift her legs as she and Maki climbed higher. The clunky metatarsal guards on top of the boots kept catching as she stepped from one platform to another. Until now she had not known that she was afraid of heights. Skyscrapers in Minneapolis had never bothered her. But now she couldn't bring herself to walk to the edge of the grated catwalk and look straight down ten stories.

The first purpose of the concentrator was to grind the gravel to a sandlike consistency, using rod mills, which were large rolling tubes containing steel rods. Another set of revolving drums filled with magnets then separated the iron-bearing grains of ore, or "concentrate," from the waste rock, or "tailings." After passing through the crusher and the concentrator by way of a labyrinth of conveyor belts, the wet concentrate arrived at its final destination, the pellet plant.

The dirt here was overwhelming. The air, walls, and floors in the pellet plant were filled and coated with black soot the consistency of flour. Her every step left a footprint as she walked out of the service elevator on the top floor of the building and gazed down 100 feet at a panorama of revolving steel machines all lined up in rows like dryers in a monstrous Laundromat. These were the huge round rotating balling drums, churning and thundering so powerfully that they made her heart race. The balling drums rolled clockwise all day, shaping wet black concentrate into round, marble-sized pellets. Thousands of black pellets rolled inside the drums on the first floor of the pellet plant. They were then hardened in a 120-foot-long rotating kiln fired at 2,400 degrees. The end product was millions of smooth, heavy black pellets containing 65 percent iron ore, ready to be loaded onto train cars for the 60-mile trip to the Lake Superior ports of Duluth and Two Harbors. From there, the pellets were loaded onto huge freighters and shipped to steel mills in Chicago, Gary, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

The plant challenged Lois's basic assumptions about a workplace. With no sun and no air, it felt primitive, menacing. The workday would be regulated not by people but by huge, ferocious machines and literally tons of dirt. The size and might and violence of the place made Lois realize that she would have to toughen up. The job would demand more than physical strength, however. For although her coveralls, boots, hard hat, and protective glasses had effectively desexed her, everywhere the foremen took her, the miners stopped what they were doing, gathered together in small groups, and stared. She didn't know a man there, yet everyone seemed to know her.

In 1975, mining put food on the table for 12,300 families on the Mesabi Iron Range, and provided the foundation for the economy of all of northern Minnesota. Minnesotans call the thin, ore-rich seam that stretches 110 miles long and 1 to 4 miles wide from Grand Rapids in the west to Babbitt in the east "The Range." The region amounts to less than 2 percent of the landmass of Minnesota, yet it is the largest iron-ore deposit in the world. For the past century it has produced 30 percent of the world's and two thirds of America's iron ore. Blasted in furnaces into steel, the ore and taconite from the Mesabi's tiny strip of land has provided the raw material that built postindustrial America--its buildings and bridges; its railroads, cars, and military arsenal. Rangers, as they call themselves, pride themselves on working hard, drinki...

From The New Yorker

When, in the nineteen-seventies, women started working at Eveleth, an iron mine in Minnesota's Mesabi Range, they were seen by both miners and management as unwelcome interlopers, and were greeted with open sexual antagonism. Pornographic graffiti, incessant propositioning, sexual insults, groping, stalking: Eveleth brought new meaning to the words "hostile working environment." Yet the company did little to stop the abuse, and the union's sense of working-class solidarity did not extend to women's rights. This riveting, assiduously well-reported account follows the tortuous class-action lawsuit that finally improved working conditions at Eveleth and redefined sexual-harassment law. Although the women who sued Eveleth were ultimately vindicated when the company settled, they endured an agonizing decade of depositions, accusations, and trials. "I felt like a house had been dropped on my head," one woman said. "Class Action" is a useful reminder of the emotional and psychological cost of waging even the most successful—and justified—lawsuits.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A collaboration between a journalist and a lawyer, this volume describes in elaborate detail the tortuous path of the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit, Jenson v. Eveleth Mines. In 1975, the Minnesota mine hired its first four women as the result of a consent decree; Lois Jenson took one of the jobs. Subjected to disgusting and relentless sexual harassment, Jenson went in turn to the company, the union, the state department of human rights, and finally, in 1988, to private counsel. With Title VII expert Paul Sprenger at the helm, the case took another 11 years, as the company's attorneys waged an intense "nuts and sluts" defense, a strategy that cost the mine $15 million. Although ultimately vindicated, the complainants suffered not only from harassment but from the brutalizing process of the litigation. Jenson herself became disabled by stress from the harassment, the hostility of female co-workers, the length of the legal process, and the invasive interrogations connected with the claim for damages. Excessive detail, compelling though it is, diminishes the book's utility. Recommended for large public and academic libraries. Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.