Changing history: Sexual discrimination lawsuit against Reader’s Digest explored in new book
Ossining native and former Reader's Digest employee Elaine Auerbach is telling her story in full about the discrimination she faced in the workplace during the 1970s.
The recent resurgence of the feminist movement has brought back memories of what started at the publication. The pandemic has inspired Auerbach to speak out again.
In her new book, “Dirty Linen: How Women Sued the Reader's Digest and Changed History” – she writes about the sexism and harassment in the workplace. She believes that history is more relevant than ever, as women have been disproportionately impacted by balancing life and work.
Auerbach started as an associate editor for Reader's Digest right out of college.
"I went to my managing editor, and I said to him, 'what do I need to do to become a senior editor?" Auerbach said. "I was just floored when he said to me very calmly, 'Oh, women don't become senior editors."
Auerbach noticed the pattern across the board that women were not receiving promotions, pay increases or training. That's why she and seven other women sued the magazine when she was 25 years old in 1972. Readers Digest ultimately paid out one of the largest sexual discrimination settlements in history.
“Reader's Digest put in goals and timetables, they increased salaries, they gave backpay, they put in training, all the things we had asked for, plus,” said Auerbach.
This event catapulted a domino effect of discrimination lawsuits at several other companies. Regardless of the role Auerbach played in the feminist movement, women today still only make 80 cents to every dollar that a man makes.
"We can't afford to lose the progress that we've made," she says.