A major third-party logistics company lost a discrimination suit because a male manager told a female employee he would never make a woman a supervisor – and later proved it by denying her a promotion she sought.
It is these sorts of suits that cause employer attorneys to regularly tear their hair out — situations where foolish talk by managers and supervisors just digs a deeper hole for their employers who face discrimination lawsuits.
The promotion was denied to a woman who worked in tech services at a facility operated by Exel Inc.
In the lawsuit filed on her behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it also was alleged that the manager generally treated women differently than men and was more “stand-offish” with the women he worked with.
Exel sought to defend itself by citing its corporate policy of favoring employees facing layoffs to be hired first for unfilled positions elsewhere in the company. The man who was promoted to the supervisor position instead of the woman plaintiff was in this situation.
However, Exel was forced to admit its policy was not rigidly applied, but instead was more of a guideline. Managers were left to use their own judgement about who to hire or promote.
Attorneys for the Seyfarth Shaw law firm say a lesson for employers to learn is that any policy favoring one candidate over another is potentially problematic, even when it is intended to protect current employees from layoffs.
Unless rigorously applied, “any deviations from that policy could later be called into question and even used against the employer as evidence that the application of that policy in that instance was merely a pretext for discrimination,” they stress.