EX-VP SUES SWATCH, CHARGES BIAS AGAINST WOMEN, AMERICANS
Byline: Vicki M. Young
NEW YORK — A former vice president in the Swatch division of SMH (US) Inc. has filed suit against the watchmaker claiming that she was fired after she complained a male employee in the same job was paid $30,000 more than she was.
Margaret Bostick, who was a vice president and regional brand manager for Swatch U.S. business from August 1995 to January 1997, is seeking class-action status on behalf of all current and former female employees of SMH who received less compensation than male employees who were holding similar positions.
Her attorney, Benton J. Mathis Jr. of Freeman Mathis & Gary, declined to disclose her salary at the time she was fired.
The suit, filed in the federal district court in Atlanta, also charged Swatch with national origin discrimination because she is an American.
SMH (US) is a subsidiary of Switzerland-based SMH Inc.
Neil Gordon, counsel for SMH, said, “There’s no basis for this lawsuit. We plan to vigorously defend our position.”
Gordon also stated that, “SMH/Swatch could not possibly be anti-American, because the chief executive officer [Nicolas G. Hayek] is part American.”
Bostick charged in her suit that Hayek “routinely refers to female employees as his girls.”
Bostick also said that Barbara Khouri, Swatch’s president at the time she was fired, told Bostick that “she did not believe the termination was legal” but that “Hayek does what he wants to do.”
Khouri, according to the court papers, said the “Swiss just don’t understand the laws. They shouldn’t be doing these things.” Khouri departed from Swatch in April.
In the suit, Bostick alleged that Martin Grossenbacher, president of Swatch’s American division, justified the pay differential between her and the male employee because he “had a family to take care of.”
Bostick also charged that Grossenbacher said “Swatch hires women because they are cheaper than men and work harder” and that the American employees receive less benefits than Swatch’s Swiss employees because “Americans are not as good.”
Bostick is seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
Swatch watches were launched in the U.S. and Europe in 1983.