ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Anheuser Busch Company wrapped up its defense in a major pay discrimination lawsuit Wednesday in St. Louis City Circuit Court. A former female vice president is suing the brewery for 9.4 million dollars. Her last boss at the firm told jurors her gender never influenced his treatment of her.
The case is expected to go to the jury Thursday after closing arguments from both sides.
Plaintiff Francine Katz was the final witness in her own case, called back to the stand by her attorney. Katz argues her responsibilities should have been re-evaluated and her rate of pay increased.
Testimony during the twelve day trial showed the beer giant used ‘benchmarks’ derived from surveys of similarly large corporations to classify executive jobs.
Katz was identified as a ‘top public relations’ officer. But she argued she did much more than public relations because she also ran the Consumer Awareness and Education department for A-B. It was a department that cultivated responsible drinking campaigns including designated driver programs, anti-under age drinking efforts and the ‘know when to say when’ promotion. She also supervised outreach efforts to urban, African American and Latino communities.
In the last question of the trial, Katz`s attorney Mary Anne Sedey asked her, ‘ Did you ever know what your benchmark was until this lawsuit was filed?’ ‘No I did not,’ she replied.
She also testified Wednesday that she had been told by one time Anheuser Busch CEO Pat Stokes that he had no authority to change her ‘market rate,’ a compensation level designed to be sure executives were paid fairly in comparison to those with similar jobs in other large firms. Yet after Anheuser Busch had been sold in 2008 to InBev, an international brewery, executive pay numbers became public in government filings. At that point Katz began asking questions. She said under oath a former human relations officer, Joe Castellano told her Stokes had ’100 percent discretion’ over her market rate.
When Sedey questioned David Peacock, a former Anheuser Busch president, if the top boss, August Busch IV could have moved Katz and another top female executive up the pay grade at the time severance packages were being negotiated with InBev, Peacock said, ‘I suppose.’
Katz`s attorney will argue she lost out on pay she should have been given between 2002 and 2008 while she served on the company`s top management committee and that her severance package was lower than her male counterparts because of the lower market rate assigned to her.
Anheuser Busch`s attorney Jim Bennett repeated asked Peacock if he failed to give Katz a raise because of her gender. Each time Peacock delivered an emphatic ‘No!’
Bennett also led Peacock through a series of questions about Bob Lachky, an advertising expert who had a higher market rate when compared to Katz and the other female executive Marlene Coulis. Peacock said Lachky`s work creating commercials involved more risk than Coulis`s responsibilities.
Bennett will argue the brewery properly evaluated Katz`s job and did not violate discrimination law when it paid her.