EEOC sues over ‘man’s world’ comment

One of HR’s most basic tasks is sometimes one of the most difficult: Getting front-line supervisors to take all the HR rules seriously. It takes time and persistence to get the message across that HR means business and that some behaviors are simply unacceptable in the workplace.

Here’s a cautionary tale that may help get the attention of bosses who think your basic rules don’t apply to them.

The EEOC has filed a lawsuit against a kitchen management company over allegations that a manager ignored HR directives and complaints from a female chef who tried to apply for an open position only to be told that professional kitchens were “a man’s world” where women are not welcome.

Patricia worked for Morrison Management Specialists Inc., a food service company that runs the kitchen at a University of Texas facility in Galveston. She wanted to work in the kitchen where the culinary action is: behind the stoves.

When a sous chef position opened, Patricia applied, as did two outside candidates, both men.

After one of the men got the sous chef job, Patricia met with the executive chef, Jeff, asked why he had hired an outside candidate. Chef Jeff responded that a professional kitchen is “a man’s world” and that he had every intention of keeping it that way.

Patricia complained to HR about the comments. When Chef Jeff found out, he told Patricia that she was no longer “a good fit” and transferred her. He again told her she would never be a sous chef and that she should not have gone to HR.

Patricia filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint with the EEOC, which eventually sued on Patricia’s behalf. The lawsuit seeks to place Patricia in a sous chef position with Morrison Management Specialists, and also wants the company to be responsible for back pay and punitive damages.

Advice: While you may not always be able to get someone like Chef Jeff to change his attitude, you can and should demand a change in behavior. Also, never let a supervisor force the transfer of an employee who has filed a discrimination complaint. Always investigate first.