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Judge slams city failure to hire women bridge painters

In a scathing decision, a federal judge in Manhattan Thursday said New York City's Department of Transportation had never hired a single female applicant for the job of bridge painter and denounced it as "unvarnished sex discrimination."

U.S. District Judge William Pauley said the evidence "showed that the Bridge Painters resisted hiring or promoting female workers to preserve a de facto boys club in which lewd sexual images and cartoons were frequently displayed ..."

Pauley, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the federal government, even noted that at one point supervisors had to issue a memorandum to the bridge painters "not to keep 'dolls, sexual photographs, cartoons or drawings' in the workplace."

Pauley ordered the city to offer jobs and back pay to four women who sought jobs a decade ago and were turned down despite their experience. He also ordered new non-discriminatory hiring standards.

"The evidence adduced at trial reveals a municipal division in America's largest city that refuses to hire women, in spite of societal norms, sound business practice, and city, state and federal law," U.S. District Judge William Pauley wrote.

The fact that 40 bridge-painter slots had always been an all-male enclave was telling in itself, Pauley wrote.

"A court cannot help but be circumspect where a municipal department in the country's largest city repeatedly selects only applicants of one sex for job vacancies," he said. "After all, zero is not just another number."

The city's law department would not rule out an appeal.

"The city and DOT deny that they have discriminated against women in their hiring practices for the position of Bridge Painter," said labor and employment law chief Georgia Pestana. "We are disappointed with the court's findings and ruling, and will be considering our options after more careful review of the decision."

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