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Landmark cases made a difference

March 18, 2007

The American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project calls the following three legal cases in 2006 victories for women's rights:

Espinal v. Ramco General Stores

After a weeklong trial, a jury in September 2006 found Albert Palacci, the owner of Ramco and National Discount Stores on Dyckman Street in upper Manhattan, guilty of sexual assault and harassment for victimizing three of his Latina immigrant employees, according to the Women's Rights Project Web site.

The women endured physical assaults, demands for sex in exchange for raises and retaliation when the demands were rejected, the Web site states.

The jury awarded $455,000 in compensation and punitive damages to the women, who were represented by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project, according to the site.

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Lochren v. Suffolk County

Six female officers in the Suffolk County Police Department in New York won a legal victory over their department in June 2006 when a federal jury found the department's duty policies discriminatory against pregnant women, according to the Women's Rights Project Web site.

In April 2000, the department changed its limited duty policy, which kept pregnant officers from getting desk and other nonpatrol jobs that would have kept them working longer through their pregnancies, the site states.

The women "had to take unnecessarily long leaves, sometimes unpaid, while they were pregnant," the Web site states.

"If we don't step up and force those industries to make provisions for women and stop forcing women to choose between their careers and their families, we're keeping women from achieving full equality," the ACLU said on its Web site.

Selden v. Livingston Parish School District

A Louisiana school district agreed to refrain from segregating its students based on sex after a lawsuit filed in summer 2006 on behalf of a 13-year-old girl called the practice discriminatory, according to the ACLU Women's Rights Project's Web site.

According to the complaint, the girl, Michelle Selden, through the American Civil Liberties Union, sought to ensure "all students at Southside Junior High School have the equal opportunity to participate in the school's academic offerings without regard to their gender and to receive instruction.

The Livingston Parish School Board planned to make single-sex instruction mandatory at the school of 900 students for the 2006-07 school year, but agreed to refrain from doing so after the complaint was filed in summer 2006.

The ACLU called its decision to halt the plan a victory for women's rights because "mandatory single sex education and the theories behind it are harmful to girls and boys alike. By reconsidering this proposal the School Board is acting in the best interest of local students," according to its Web site.

The American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project Web site is at www.aclu.org/womensrights.

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