Superior's wrath ignites sex discrimination lawsuit for retaliation

by on January 14, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Business school dean flunks EEOC Sex Discrimination 101

While HR can’t control all the conditions that precipitate a sex discrimination lawsuit, it can and should do plenty to offset the double whammy of a retaliation complaint getting heaped on top of a disparate pay charge.

She earned less than the men

Jean Smith taught at a state university. For much of her 15 years there Professor Smith was the only woman on the business school faculty.

She knew she earned less than her male counterparts, but she didn’t make a big deal about it – until she learned she took home a full 31% less than male professors at her experience level. She asked for a raise, but she got turned down. So she went to the EEOC and filed a sex discrimination lawsuit.

After that, things got bad: Smith’s dean was openly hostile to her in meetings. Witnesses testified he went out of his way to be rude to her. He even threatened to fire her.

Smith added retaliation to her sex discrimination lawsuit. And she won. Her disparate pay complaint and her retaliation charge passed summary judgment. In other words, the business school dean aggravated an already volatile situation.

This case isn’t just academic: It’s a reminder to train your firm’s managers how to handle complainers, whistleblowers and protected employees.

Cite: Smith v. Kentucky State University, U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, No. 02-5652, 4/7/04.

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