When you think of a sexually hostile work environment, the scenario usually involves crude sex talk, bawdy photos and other prurient activities. But those aren’t the only markers of a hostile environment.
In fact, a pervasive anti-female attitude that has nothing to do with sex can lead to a lawsuit, too.
Consider, for example, what happens when supervisors—usually men—tell female employees that they don’t belong inand should stay home and take care of their families. What if women repeatedly hear that they were hired or promoted only because of affirmative action?
It’s easy to see how such an environment would discourage women from trying new ideas, developing new skills or taking steps to gain promotions within the organization.
If this kind of bias is happening in your organization, don’t be surprised if you wind up facing sex discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuits sooner or later.
Recent case: Marlene Luzier worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor (DOL) and immediately began to have trouble with a supervisor she thought had a sexist attitude toward women in the workplace. For example, she claimed she overheard him comment when a woman was appointed to a director position, she “must have had political pull because we need a man in there … we don’t need a female.”
The same supervisor also made comments about pregnant employees, suggesting they should be “home, pregnant and barefoot.” On another occasion, Luzier heard the man say a woman he knew who had received a military promotion got it because of affirmative action, not merit.
In addition, Luzier said women were rarely promoted in her DOL branch, and never to supervisory positions.
Luzier sued, alleging the department allowed a hostile environment to exist, and that she had been discouraged from seeking opportunities or applying for promotions because she thought it would be futile.
The federal court hearing her case said she was entitled to a jury trial. (Luzier v. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, No. 3:06-CV-1590, MD PA, 2008)
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