Remind supervisors and managers that they shouldn’t assign jobs or duties based on a worker’s gender. Nor should anyone inmake comments that could be interpreted as sexist or as assumptions that certain roles are best assigned to either men or women.
Sex is simply irrelevant in the workplace except in very limited circumstances.
Recent case: Roger worked as a registered nurse (RN) at a hospice, delivering patient care. His supervisor was a woman. At one point, she asked Roger to switch assignments with a female nurse so he would not be part of a team consisting solely of male RNs.
The supervisor allegedly stated that she “didn’t like the idea of two men working together.” Roger refused, believing that the request was based on sexist stereotyping that men are less nurturing than women.
Later, the supervisor became head of nursing. She was responsible for more than scheduling; her job now included evaluating RNs, including Roger. Suddenly, he found himself disciplined for various minor infractions. His supervisor criticized him for being tardy and seemed to find reasons to criticize his performance despite earlier positive evaluations. Eventually, he was terminated.
Roger believed that the increased scrutiny was the supervisor’s way of getting back at him for refusing to become part of a mixed-sex team. Roger sued, alleging sex discrimination.
The court said he had enough evidence to move forward. (Lianoz v. Hospice of Humboldt, No. 12-CV-04349, ND CA, 2014)
Final note: At trial, Roger will likely try to show that he was also disciplined more harshly than other nurses, arguing that the reason for the increased scrutiny was his refusal to comply with what he believed was a sexist request.
Smart employers reviewing discipline look for obvious patterns like overly aggressive discipline for previously good employees.