By Ari Paul

May 21, 2010 - Women were ranked arbitrarily. A Federal Judge in Manhattan ruled May 13 that the city wrongfully refused to hire female Bridge Painters at the Department of Transportation “in spite of societal norms, sound business practice, and city, state and Federal law.”

U.S. District Judge William Pauley III found that since October 1997 the DOT filled 13 provisional job openings with male candidates despite that fact that equally and more-qualified females also applied. Four women who intervened in the case will be granted relief, but the Judge has yet to grant their appointment to the title.

Judge Pauley noted that there was little statistical evidence showing discrimination other than “the elephant in the room—the incontrovertible fact that DOT has never hired a provisional female Bridge Painter,” and that “Regardless of the weight given to the total absence of female hires, the remaining anecdotal evidence was more than sufficient to show that DOT lacked consistent hiring standards in the bridge Painter section, that less qualified men were given preferences over more qualified women, and that the disparate treatment was intentional appeasement of DOT’s existing all-male workforce.”

A Law Department attorney said the city would consider appealing the case.

Subjective Testing
Howard Wien, a Koehler and Isaacs attorney for the female interveners, said that Judge Pauley saw that the DOT had poor record-keeping and that the hiring process consisted of only one manager testing and ranking candidates.

“He ranked them arbitrarily,” Mr. Wien said. “There was no climbing test, and 90 percent of the job is climbing bridges. And they took men who had never climbed.”

The case also outlined what Mr. Wien called a hostile work environment for women, where the Bridge Painters displayed lewd and sexist posters in their lockers.

Mr. Wien also noted the female interveners had the backing of International Union Painters and Allied Trades Local 806, in sharp contrast to the stereotype that building trades unions are sexist.

“In this case you really saw a construction industry union go to bat for the women,” he said. “I think the union should get credit for that.”