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Some manager socializing could spark bias lawsuits

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

Issue: Supervisors may feel more comfortable with employees from one gender or the other.

Risk: If they allow those relationships to affect their employment decisions, supervisors could run afoul of gender-bias laws.

Action: Remind supervisors, especially rookie ones, of the subtle messages of favoritism they may be sending.

Do your female managers socialize more with female employees during and after work? Likewise, do male managers hang out with other men?

On its face, nothing is wrong with that. But, as a new court ruling shows, such relationships could become a legal problem if such "favoritism" spills over into the supervisor's employment decisions.

That's why it's smart to remind supervisors to never hold members of one sex to a different standard. Make managers, particularly rookie managers, aware of the subtle favoritism messages they may be sending inadvertently.

Case in point: Paul Sacco was the most experienced employee in his department, but he sued for gender discrimina-tion after he lost out on a promotion to a female with less experience. His claim: The department manager (a female) chose the applicant because the manager had a history of socializing solely with female employees.

A federal appeals court let the case go to trial, saying that "socializing" itself can't form the basis of a sex-bias lawsuit, but it can be used in court to show a pattern of favoring one gender over another. (He also showed that the manager let females socialize at work, but asked men not to.)

Final tip: To avoid gender bias in promotions, HR should review supervisors' choices. Ask questions if obvious candidates seem to be passed over.

Use a neutral party to conduct independent reviews of the manager's recommendation.

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