Racial discrimination in law enforcement is constantly in the news these days.  Another form of discrimination that does not make headlines often is gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination is rampant in American society.  This notion is particularly true in the field of employment.  Women compose approximately 49 percent of the US labor pool.  Women have elevated to chief executive officer in a few major US corporations.  But women are CEO’s in merely 3 percent of public US firms.

Furthermore, white college-graduated males earn 40 percent more than white women with the same credentials.

One area of US industry exemplifies the gender gap is health care.  Generally, male MD’s are paid more than female MD’s.  Women have historically dominated the nursing field, outnumbering male nurses 10 to 1.    Yet male nurses earn more compensation that their female counterparts.  In a recent year research indicates that female nurses average about $51,000 annual compensation while male nurses earn almost $61,000 per annum.

The same is true in other major industries including engineering, automotive and financial sectors.

These statistics are indicators of a deeper problem in our society.  On balance, women remain second-class citizens.  While women may be aware where they reside, most often, they do nothing about it, appearing content to be employed in our slow-growing economy.  Many women experience more subtle gender bias such as stereotypical assumptions about their capabilities – even though the civil rights statutes bar such conduct in the employment setting.

But there are woman who fight back.  And, congress, the executive branch and the courts have attempted to rescue women from their relegated status.  For example, a recent court decision in New Hamphsire’s U. S. Circuit Court, held that “The assumption that a woman will perform her job less well due to her presumed family obligations is a form of sex-stereotyping and that adverse job actions on that basis constitute sex discrimination.”  Chadwick v. WellPoint Inc, 561 F.3d 38, 44-45 (1st Cir. 2009).

The court elaborated: An employer “is not free to assume that a woman, because she is a woman, will necessarily be a poor worker because of family responsibilities.” Id.

And the U. S. Supreme Court observed:

“In specific context of sex stereotyping, an employer who acts on the basis of a belief that a woman cannot be aggressive, or that she must not be, has acted on the basis of gender.”  Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U. S. 228 (1989).

In other words, when an employer makes a decision on the basis of a sex-stereotype was the same as making a decision based on gender.  And it is illegal.

Examples of gender bias in employment include

  • An employer took the position that a woman “could not be a good mother and work long hours and that a woman would not show the same level of commitment because she had little ones at home.” Nevada Dep’t. of Human Res. V. Hibbs, 538 U. S. 721, 730 (2003).
  • Another employer refused to promote a female “because she had children and he didn’t think she’s want to relocate her family, thought she hadn’t informed him of that.” Lust v. Sealy, Inc., 383 F.3d 580, 583 (7th 2004).
  • A supervisor informed an employee “that she was being fired so that she could ‘spend more time at home with her children.’” Sheehan v. Donlen Corp., 173 F.3d 1039, 1045 (7th 1999).

In each case, the court held for the female plaintiff, ruling that the employer’s actions violated the civil rights statutes.

In our practice, 90% of our clients are female.  They have been discriminated against in one way or another – a bank teller who was not promoted to a higher level after 22 years; a bank branch manager who was passed over for higher position numerous times by males; an engineer who did not receive the same resources in terms of staff support and compensation as male engineers; an executive nurse whose compensation was 2/3rds of the male counterpart’s compensation; many teachers who were disadvantaged because they were also mothers.

The list continues each week as women contact us for assistance when they experience bias in employment decisions.  We inform clients that the law is on their side — from the national government to state and local governments.  And that is true as officials at all levels work to eliminate gender bias.


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