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Deere accused of systematic sex bias in hiring in suit

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Holly Artis said she was rejected by John Deere Landscapes in Livermore, Calif., in favor of a man with less experience.

Business Week | March 18, 2011

Deere & Co., the world’s largest maker of agricultural equipment, was accused in an amended lawsuit of systematically discriminating against women seeking entry-level positions.

Holly Artis, who sued last year in San Francisco federal court, filed an amended complaint today seeking class-action, or group, status for her lawsuit on behalf of female applicants denied jobs. Artis, 33, said she was rejected by John Deere Landscapes in Livermore, California, in favor of a man with less experience, and said the company and its landscaping division bar women from customer-service and sales jobs.

All 19 executives in Deere’s equipment and landscaping divisions are men, and women hold only 2.2 percent of sales jobs at its larger landscaping facilities, while the average for nursery, garden-center and farm-supply stores is more than 50 percent, Brad Seligman, Artis’s attorney, said in an e-mailed statement.

“Deere has strong nondiscriminatory hiring practices and recruits and hires qualified candidates for employment regardless of gender,” Ken Golden, a spokesman for Moline, Illinois-based Deere, said in a phone interview. The lawsuit is one person’s perspective, inaccurate and “not representative of Deere & Co.’s overall hiring practices,” he said.

Artis is seeking a court order ending the alleged discriminatory hiring practices and reimbursement of lost pay to applicants denied jobs.

Seligman is the lead lawyer in a class action against Wal- Mart Stores Inc., the largest-ever private gender bias case in U.S. history, representing as many as 1 million women. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case March 29. Wal-Mart denies wrongdoing.

The case is Artis v. Deere, 10-5289, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco)

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