Brenda Feigen is an expert in all matters relating to discrimination against members of any group that experience unfair treatment because of their membership in that group. This includes discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination involving women, men, gays and lesbians, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, people with disabilities and older Americans. Ms. Feigen has spoken about discrimination across the nation and on national television. She has consulted with individuals and companies who seek advice when issues of discrimination arise.
During the ‘70s, she gained nationwide attention for her prominent support of the ERA as she debated the notorious Phyllis Schlafly on television (as recently depicted in “Mrs. America,”) and in auditoriums around the country. In 1972, she was a key supporter of Title IX which required that girls and women receive equal resources in all federally funded programs, notably sports.
Ms. Feigen represents both employers and employees, defendants as well as plaintiffs. Her years of work on behalf of people who have been mistreated because of their sex, race, national origin, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, etc. have caused her to realize that some people take advantage of the laws and try, improperly, to claim discrimination. This makes it harder for legitimate plaintiffs to bring their claims. Not jaded, but with a very clear goal, Ms. Feigen now represents defendants whom she believes have been unjustly accused of violating state or federal fair employment laws. In fact, she represents defendants with a gusto brought on by the many years she has devoted to efforts on behalf of complainants.
Ms. Feigen has been involved with sex discrimination, sexual harassment, race, ethnic origin, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation discrimination cases for over five decades. Having graduated from Harvard Law School, she was both a plaintiff and attorney in a successful four-pronged class action lawsuit against the Harvard Club of New York City that had, prior to the suit's filing, refused to admit women as full members, only allowing them to go through a side door to the second floor tea rooms. You can imagine her shock when recently she read the "history" of the HCNY in which the Club, not the women who sued it, claimed credit for willingly opening its doors.
In the early '70s, Ms. Feigen directed the Women's Rights Project of the ACLU with now Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and handled there all sorts of sex discrimination lawsuits. She oversaw litigation across the country and wrote U.S. Supreme Court briefs for the most important of them. She sued not only on behalf of women but also men who were crippled by sex-role stereotypes that more often than not, for example, prevented them from being full parents to their children. One successful class action case was against the New York City Board of Education that had never before allowed fathers parental leaves of absence. Women who have been denied equal opportunity for advancement, promotions and even equal pay routinely have asked for and received her help. In fact, Ms. Feigen was instrumental in the passage of Title IX which called for equal treatment of girls and women in sports programs in all schools across the country that received any kind of federal aid. In this respect, Ms. Feigen continues to accept challenges based on unfair treatment in sports of women and girls.
Several large class actions were successfully handled by Ms. Feigen in three federal district courts in Southern states. These cases addressed the issues of poor, non-white women being sterilized without their knowledge and informed consent. Ms. Feigen isfeatured in the award-winning documentary on the subject. There, she is speaking out now about the practice and on the screen we see a much younger Brenda Feigen being interviewed on "60 Minutes" with her client Nell Ruth Cox, who had been one of those young women.
In recent years and as the law changed to accommodate such suits, Ms. Feigen has also gone after employers who discriminate against employees because of their sex, sexual orientation, disability age or race. Whether the process is begun in a state agency (DFEH in California, for example), with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the U.S. Justice Department is a discussion that Ms. Feigen has with her clients at the very beginning of their relationship. Often the answer is easy, depending on the kind of matter and the state in which the complaint arises. Ms. Feigen prides herself on being able to negotiate fair settlements for clients who choose not to go to court or even arbitration but who nonetheless have strong cases.
Recently, Ms. Feigen was on the front lines in the successful fight against the military's "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" policy that forced service members to hide their sexuality or face dismissal. This highly unconstitutional law was an issue discussed regularly in the press. Ms. Feigen's posts on the website www.WowOWow.com regularly addressed problems and often suggest solutions. Subsequently, upon the invitation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she attended the Supreme Court hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act, California’s Prop 8 and the landmark Marriage Cases, rulings that by 2015 allowed gays and lesbians nationwide to marry. Ms. Feigen appears in the award-winning documentary about her friend, “RBG.”
Several years ago, Ms. Feigen took the case of a female Teamster who had been continually sexually harassed while driving her truck with male cohorts. That case was settled for six figures. She also represented stuntwomen who claimed their work was being wrongfully taken over by men in drag.
Currently, Ms. Feigen is representing female dockworkers who are prevented from entering the ILWU (with job security and proper pay) because they are denied light duty during pregnancy making them unable to work enough hours to qualify for union membership. The case also demands what California law requires: safe, private places in which to pump breast milk. Ms. Feigen brought on, as co-counsel with her, the ACLU and a prestigious private law firm, and this class action case is set for trial in summer 2021.