Articles Posted in Gender Discrimination

It’s unfortunate that today, in 2013, beliefs persist that women should not enter or excel in certain positions or career fields.

Sometimes, it’s a stance that is held by one individual with significant power. Other times, we find it’s a dogma that is pervasive in certain career fields.
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Our Boston discrimination attorneys know women in some careers enter their profession expecting discrimination. Others are thoroughly shocked when they face it. The fact is such discrimination has been known to exist in virtually every type of industry since women first entered the workforce en mass in the 20th century. It is in no way limited to blue collar industries or even those traditionally held by men.

This point was further illustrated recently in the contrast between two announcements regarding lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The first involves a national food distributor based out of Baltimore. The EEOC recently filed a lawsuit alleging that the chain has engaged in a practice of routinely failing or refusing to hire female workers for operative positions. The EEOC contends this has been going on since at least 2003.

The company, Performance Food Group Inc., is alleged to have systematically turned down female applicants for the following positions:

  • driver check-in;
  • forklift operator;
  • driver;
  • driver trainee;
  • mechanic;
  • selector;
  • yard jockey;
  • receiving clerk;
  • fueler;
  • dispatcher;
  • meat packer;
  • meat cutter;
  • sanitation specialist;
  • router;
  • warehouse supervisor;
  • transportation supervisor.

Furthering the EEOC’s case is the fact that the senior vice president, as well as a number of other higher-ranking management officials, reportedly made comments indicating managers were to favor male job candidates over females. Vice presidents of the firm were said to have questioned why the firm should “waste its time” by hiring women, purporting that women would slow down production. Further, there were statements made to the effect that the women who already had jobs should be pushed out. One management official asked why the firm continued to hire “these girls”.

In one situation, a female was refused a promotion for which she was qualified, solely on the basis of her gender. The vice president refused to look at her resume, despite a strong recommendation from her supervisor, saying he wasn’t interested in considering a female for the job.

Such conduct, if proven true, would clearly violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After failing to reach a pre-litigation agreement, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the firm.

In a separate case, the EEOC won a lawsuit against a computer software firm based in Ohio for gender discrimination. Exel, Inc. must pay $500,000 total — $25,000 in compensatory damages and $475,000 in punitive damages — for refusing to promote a female employee on the basis of her gender. Back pay will also be awarded to the worker in question.

Back in 2008, a female worker applied for a supervisory promotion. Both she and the EEOC say she was denied solely on the basis of her gender. The EEOC presented evidence showing that male workers were regularly promoted after verbally requesting consideration for open positions.

In this case, the female worker was recognized throughout the firm as the most knowledgeable staffer with regard to inventory control. Yet she was denied a promotion for her boss’s job after he vacated the position. The former supervisor had even recommended her for the post. The general manager reportedly responded that he would “never put a woman in that position.”

While the woman was told the position would remain unfilled, another male employee was told he would be given the position – but only if he agreed to keep it a secret. Later, the female worker was required to train him because he had no inventory experience. This, the EEOC rightly noted, was indicative of the duplicity toward the female staffer. The jury agreed.
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The majority of gender discrimination lawsuits in Boston and throughout the country are initiated by women who have been treated unfairly.
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However, there are some businesses and even industries in which men are the ones being singled out for unfavorable treatment due to their sex. (As a side note, transgender discrimination is also forbidden under federal law. The EEOC has held that discrimination against transgender employees is based on their sex, and is thus forbidden under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)

There have been a handful of recent examples to illustrate how men have been excluded from jobs, denied promotions, given unequal pay and even been fired because of their gender.

One of those was a case out of Florida at a dating service that, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, refused to hire men and also reportedly retaliated against a manager who spoke out against this kind of discrimination.

The company had been in business for approximately two decades and, during that time, the firm “wouldn’t even consider” hiring men to serve as dating directors and inside sales representatives. The primary function of these positions was to “fix up” single men and women for romantic dates.

Company representatives openly took the stance that “men weren’t suited to do this work” and that clientele preferred working with female representatives.

The fact that the company was so open about it just goes to show that male gender discrimination is not viewed in the same light as female gender discrimination. It’s somehow seen as less serious or as having less of a negative impact on those involved. That’s clearly not the case.

In 2009, the dating service’s female human services director made it clear to company leaders that she opposed the company’s no-male employee policy. She told the senior executives flat-out that it was not only wrong, but against the law. Two days later, she was fired.

That former human resources director will receive $131,000 of a $900,000 settlement agreement recently reached by the company and the EEOC. The rest of the money is going to be secured in a fund for access by men who were turned down for jobs over the years. It’s unclear how many that might include, though it seems several thousand applied for sales positions through online job websites. Though we don’t know how many qualified applicants were actually processed and then turned down on the basis of their gender.

Federal law does allow (very narrowly) that certain positions may be held only by one sex if gender is a “bona fide occupational qualification.” Some examples of that might be a Hooters Girl or a washroom attendant. However, being a sales representative at a dating service isn’t one of them.

Another recent male gender discrimination case involved a suit filed against the federal government’s immigration enforcement agency last year. The employee alleged that he was turned down for a high-level position with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency in favor of a less-qualified female employee. He said his boss had made it clear she favored female workers. The employee said he suffered retaliation when he threatened to file a complaint of discrimination.

He added that the work environment was sexually-charged and hostile toward men.

The boss in question resigned, and the employee received a settlement of $175,000.
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Boston Bar Assosiation