A recent sex bias case out of Louisiana shows that unfortunately, sexism is still alive and well in the workplace. Despite some progress being made toward gender equality – sexist jokes, harassment and biased attitudes still affect many women and may hinder their ability to receive deserved promotions.
In the sex discrimination case filed against the Louisiana State University Police Department, a female major – Martha Helen Haire – alleged that she was passed over for promotion in favor of a male colleague violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In Haire v. Bd. Of Supervisors of La. State Univ. Agric. & Mech. Coll., the appellate court found that the failure to promote, combined with evidence of sexist statements “raised an issue of fact” and as a result, the case should go to a jury.
Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of” an employee’s sex. This means that your employer may not take an adverse action against you because of your sex. In other words, your sex cannot play a role in any aspect of your employment, including hiring, transfers, promotions, pay, disciplinary action, suspensions, and discharges. In addition to Title VII, a related law, the Equal Pay Act, requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work. If you have questions about sex discrimination or believe that you may have been subjected to sex discrimination at work, it’s a good idea to speak to a dedicated Atlanta sex discrimination attorney at once.
In this instance, Haire presented a significant amount of evidence that she was passed over for a promotion due to improper sexist motives. Some of the evidence included:
• She is female;
• She was qualified for the position as chief of police based on her college degree and relevant experience;
• She was passed over for promotion twice; and • A similarly situated male was treated differently (better) than she was.
Further, LSU offered as a defense that it passed over Ms. Haire because she had violated police procedure during an earlier incident and couldn’t be trusted with an increase in responsibility. The court didn’t give this defense much weight – instead finding that that LSU’s “non-discriminatory justification,” for not hiring Ms. Haire was potentially “pre-textual” (i.e. an excuse created as a defense to discrimination.)
In fact Judge E. Grady Jolly who wrote the court’s opinion noted, “For her…what followed from the incident was all a charade that LSU undertook to cover its tracks in the sex discrimination suit it anticipated.”
“By papering Haire’s files with disciplinary write-ups,” he added, “it could protect itself with a sham justification for not promoting a female applicant who was more qualified.”
Another issue to point out in this case is that the man hired as the interim police chief demonstrated sex bias – he allegedly stated he “d[id] not want a woman in th[e] position” of chief and sent “dumb-blonde” jokes to a female LSUPD employee. In response to a local newspaper article regarding problems at the Louisiana Department of Revenue, he also said, “[T]hat’s what happens when you have a bunch of women in charge.”
Further, another supervisor who was not the ultimate decision-maker also showed bias, stating that he wanted ‘to get rid of’ Haire and that he would resign if a female were appointed Chief. The court found that if these comments influenced LSU’s decision not to promote Haire, that LSU could be found liable under a “cat’s paw” theory of liability.
It’s disheartening that examples of sex discrimination and race discrimination are still prevalent in the work place. If you believe you have been discriminated against, please contact the dedicated Georgia discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP so we can help you fight back.