Company culture led to gender discrimination lawsuit

by on December 12, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Female demoted, but the men she outperformed kept their positions.

An employer’s “good-old-boy” culture contributed to a hostile work environment that cost the company nearly $500,000 in punitive damages and back pay for gender discrimination. Could this happen to you?

Adrienne Corti was the top-producing Financial Services Manager (FSM) at a high-tech manufacturing firm. But she was the only woman in her group, and her male colleagues made her feel as though she wasn’t part of the team.

Corti was often excluded from social activities: While on a business trip, a male colleague suggested she go shopping while the men played golf. “It’s a guy thing,” he told her.

Corti was subjected to daily teasing and gender-based jokes by her male peers. Her complaints to management, the court said, “fell on deaf ears.”

The ‘boys’ gave input

Finally, Corti was demoted in a company-wide reorganization. But the men kept their jobs. She’d been the top producer, but her boss didn’t feel she was a “team player.” Significantly, he sought input for his decision from the other men on the team.

She sued for gender discrimination and won her case. Why? Because the employer’s male-dominated culture couldn’t accommodate a woman.

In this case, sensitivity training – not golf – should have been a “guy thing.”

Cite: Corti v. Storage Technology Corporation, U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, No. 01-1833, 9/18/02.

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