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No need to satisfy every gender-bias demand

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Of course you should strive to keep your workplace free of discrimination, but you don’t have to satisfy unreasonable equity requests.

For example, if you have just hired the first woman for a job that has long been filled by men, the new employee may ask for some changes. If they are practical and reasonable, go ahead and make them. But don’t worry about measures that don’t materially affect working conditions.

Recent case: Denise, a skilled machinist, applied for a position at a steel-making company. She got the job because the hiring manager thought she was the best-qualified applicant. Denise became the company’s only female machinist.

She began complaining that there was no women’s restroom near her workstation. A unisex restroom was close by, but the nearest women’s restroom was a relatively long walk away. Management refused to build a new women’s room near the unisex one.

The company had a strict no-fault attendance rule that called for terminating repeat offenders. After more than 30 absences, Denise was fired.

She sued, alleging among other things that she had been treated differently because of her gender. She used the refusal to provide a separate women’s restroom as evidence.

The court tossed out her claim, ruling that having to use a unisex bathroom was merely an inconvenience and certainly wasn’t sex discrimination. (Krupa v. Dunkirk Specialty Steel, No. 13-CV-76, WD NY, 2014)

Final note: The company did everything right. It hired a highly qualified woman, treated her just like her co-workers and disciplined her under the same attendance system that applied to everyone else.

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