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Negative stereotype of female worker and unequal opportunities lead to big award for sex discrimination

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) recently awarded a 61-year-old female employee lost pay of more than $600,000, as well as $300,000 in emotional distress damages.  The employee complained that the company operated an “old boy’s network.” Shortly after the employee complained about unequal pay and discriminatory treatment, the company instituted a restructuring that led to her termination.  The Company defended its decision by claiming the female employee’s sales numbers were lower than her two male colleagues and that her commitment to “teamwork and trust” was problematic.

Following a hearing, the MCAD concluded that the employee was an intelligent, articulate professional who was committed to her career.  The evidence showed that her salary was less than two of her male peers in the same department, even though they were less qualified and less experienced.  The Company marginalized the female employee in subtle ways too, such as excluding her from male golf outings and luncheons, not sending her to Chicago headquarters for meeting with high-level executives, and excluding her from attending national sales meetings.

The MCAD discredited the company’s supposed reasons for selecting the employee for termination.  “Respondent’s assessment of Complainant’s character promotes an unflattering stereotype of females who seek to advance their professional interests as overly aggressive and selfish, whereas male professionals who exhibit similar behavior are viewed as confident, hard-charging and successful.  In the end, I am left to conclude that the real reason for Complainant’s termination was that she was a strong and persistent female who did not conform to the standards of behavior expected of a woman in the workplace.”

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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