Here’s an important reminder that it takes just one Neanderthal boss to launch a lawsuit: Treating working mothers differently than working fathers is sex discrimination. Never turn a blind eye if you hear a supervisor is doing just that.
Recent case: Shannon, who has young children, worked for medical equipment manufacturer Hologic. After she took two days off to care for her kids, her boss commented that he thought her children were interfering with her job. A few months later, he repeated his criticism, telling her that “no one with young children can do this job.”
Shannon reported the comments to HR. Shortly after, she learned she was being terminated.
Shannon sued, alleging sex discrimination because male employees with young children hadn’t been criticized. Hologic argued that it hadn’t engaged in sex discrimination because it had replaced Shannon with a woman. It tried to get the case tossed out.
The court refused. The question wasn’t whether the company hired women, but whether it treated a subset of women—those with young children—differently than a subset of men who also had young children. The case now proceeds to trial. (Swider v. Hologic, No. 12-1547, DC MN, 2012)
Final note: Shannon’s last day at work was about six weeks after she was informed in person that she would lose her job. However, Shannon asked several times whether she really was being fired, and received no clear answer. She filed her complaint within 300 days of her last day at work, but more than 300 days after she was first told.
The court said that because Hologic didn’t clearly state she was being fired, she could use the last day of work to calculate her filing deadline. Lesson: Put all notices in writing.
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- Warn supervisors: It's not your job to question why employees take FMLA leave
- Put reasonable limits on who can take complaints
- ADA: Sometimes, no accommodation will work