Gender barriers falling? Ensure equal treatment for both sexes

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Some jobs are still dominated by either men or women, and those employees may not welcome with open arms the first member of the opposite sex. Before dumping the new employee into the workplace, make sure you do everything you can to ensure equal treatment in all important aspects of the job. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing a lawsuit over unequal treatment.

Recent case: Melanie Mangum accepted a job with the Holly Springs fire department as a firefighter, transferring from a position as an administrative assistant and emergency medical technician. She was the department’s first female firefighter and, before her first day, began hearing rumors that she might not be warmly welcomed.

Then she got her first assignment—at a distant firehouse with just one other firefighter. All other recruits were placed in the main firehouse, where they received extensive training, the latest equipment and opportunities to get to know one another. In contrast, Mangum had to wait to get modern equipment.

She went out on FMLA leave for stress and never returned. Instead, she resigned when her leave expired. Then she sued for sex discrimination. The court said she had enough evidence for a jury trial. Being isolated and denied training opportunities and equipment may be disparate treatment based on sex. (Mangum v. Town of Holly Springs, No. 5:07-CV-425, ED NC, 2008)

Final note:
Why did managers assign Mangum to the second firehouse? Perhaps because she complained about her possible reception and they wanted to isolate her from the backlash.

But that sort of paternalistic protection often backfires, as it appears to have happened here. A far better approach would be to hold a meeting introducing the new team member and reiterating that everyone, regardless of sex, must be treated equally.

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