Firm Violates Title VII by Using Gender Stereotypes in Promotion Process

    Employment Expert WItnessThis case involves a woman who was a senior manager at an accounting firm in Wyoming. The firm proposed her for partnership. Out of 88 candidates she was the only woman proposed for partnership. As part of the partnership process, the firm solicited written comments from all partners. Many partners stated that the woman was aggressive and macho. There were also concerns expressed that she was impatient and difficult to work with. The firm did not accept or deny her for partnership but instead accepted her for reconsideration the next year, reclassifying her job so that she was earning a lower salary then when she had previously been attempting to secure a firm partnership. Several male partners advised her to “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear makeup, have her hair styled, and wear feminine jewelry like pearls or other gemstones” if she wanted to make partner. When the next year came, the woman was denied a partnership. The woman sued the firm alleging that their handling of her partnership decision constituted sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • Can a female member of a company sue if she is denied a promotion because she did not meet the feminine stereotype that the firm required for promotion?

    Expert Witness Response

    Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, a company commits an unlawful employment practice if it bases an employment decision on the race, color, sex, or national origin of an employee. If a firm uses gender stereotyping in a promotion evaluation process involving a female employee, this usually constitutes sex discrimination and this is prohibited by Title VII. If a company bases a promotion decision about a female employee solely on the employee’s personality and the employee has shown personality flaws that affect their ability to do their job, this is usually not considered discrimination under Title VII. However, if a company uses gender stereotyping in its promotion evaluation process and denies a woman a promotion solely based on these stereotypes, the company must show by clear evidence that it would have made the same promotion decision in the absence of any discriminatory employment practices. In this case, the female employee probably can bring an action under Title VII against the firm for sex discrimination since it denied her a promotion and thus treated her differently than other male employees because of her sex. The decision to deny the employee a promotion in this case was not based on her personality flaws but was based solely on “stereotyped” impressions about the characteristics of females. This is prohibited by Title VII. Also, the employee was evaluated as a “woman manager” and not a manager, so the firm probably is guilty of sex discrimination in this case.

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