How to protect your company from a lawsuit tip #6: Ban gender bias in the workplace

How to protect your company from a lawsuit tip #6: Ban gender bias in the workplace

Gender bias in the workplace can be as elusive as a unicorn and even harder to eliminate. If you're an employee who feels discriminated against because of your gender, storming into HR and shouting "Gender bias!" might not be the best strategy, especially if you're up against a multinational corporation. You could try, but in that scenario, you'd be David, and your employer would be Goliath.

On the flip side, if you're an employer accused of gender bias, whether the accusation is accurate or not, you might find yourself with a legal headache. In this article, we continue our quest to protect you from getting sued.

Does your office have a gender bias problem?

Identifying gender bias in the workplace can sometimes feel like trying to spot a needle in a haystack, but fear not. Here are some subtle and overt signs that your workplace might have a gender bias problem:

The manterruption epidemic

Ever notice that whenever Jane starts speaking in meetings, she's promptly interrupted by Steve, who then repeats exactly what she was trying to say? This is a classic case of "manterruption," where a man constantly interrupts a woman. If this happens more often than you'd like to admit, it might be time to examine your office dynamics.

The promotion mirage

Imagine this scenario: Susan has been working tirelessly, hitting every target and even going above and beyond. Yet, when promotion time rolls around, it's Bob who gets the nod — because, according to his manager, "He's a natural leader." If you’re thinking red flag, then you're absolutely right.

The pay gap gaffe

Do the salary numbers in your company look like a cliff, with men on the highest ground and women at the bottom? If your employees start whispering about how Sarah's doing the same job as Tom but for less pay, that screams gender bias.

The maternity myth

Ever heard someone say in your workplace, "We can't promote Anna; she's probably going to have kids soon"? This kind of assumption is not only outdated but also a clear sign of gender bias. Just because someone is capable of having children doesn't mean they're any less capable of doing their job.

These signs aren't just harmless quirks of office life; they can lead to serious legal troubles. Don’t believe us? Just look at the companies we're about to discuss.

What do Amazon, Google, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical have in common?

Amazon: Prime time for gender discrimination

Amazon seems to have added gender discrimination and retaliation to its growing list of allegations. In 2023, three former Amazon employees sued the company, accusing it of chronic pay inequity and retaliation after they complained about it.

Caroline Wilmuth, Katherine Schomer, and Erin Combs, who worked in Amazon's corporate research and strategy division, claimed that female staffers were assigned lower job titles than their male counterparts, despite performing the same roles. They also alleged that the company regularly failed to promote women, resulting in them doing similar work as men in higher job codes but for less pay.

Wilmuth pointed out that out of the four researchers on her team, the three women were classified in lower-paid job categories, while the only male researcher was in a higher-paid, higher-level role. According to the complaint, the male researcher made approximately 150% of Schomer's salary.

And how did Amazon respond? Did they admit to their faults and swiftly settle the case? Of course not. True to form, Amazon geared up its legal team to prove that the claims were unfounded. It's just another day at the office for Amazon's legal squad, fending off employees' allegations like they’re swatting flies.

Google: Searching for fair treatment

If you Google "female Google executive wins lawsuit against Google due to sexual discrimination," you'll find web pages discussing a case involving female Google Cloud executive Ulku Rowe. Rowe’s lawsuit alleged that Google gave higher pay to less-experienced male cohorts and later denied her promotions in retaliation for her complaints, both internal and in court.

The results of this lawsuit were anything but straightforward. The jury awarded Rowe $1.1 million for punitive damages and pain and suffering, acknowledging that she was treated unfairly because of her gender. However, they also found that Rowe hadn’t proven that Google violated New York law by paying her less than two of her male counterparts, despite evidence of differential treatment.

This case perfectly illustrates the complexities of legal battles over gender discrimination. It shows how you can win the battle but still find the war far from over.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: A wing and a prayer

Based on the previous cases, it seems that being discriminated against at work, especially for gender, can lead to hefty compensation. But a lesser-known perk? Getting a hospital wing named after you for enduring discrimination.

This was the outcome for Dr. Carol Warfield in her gender discrimination case against Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she was once the chief of anesthesiology. Warfield alleged that two supervisors discriminated against her because she was a woman and ultimately forced her out of her job. She sued the hospital, the supervisors, and the hospital’s physician group.

Her case was headed for trial until all parties involved reached an unusual settlement: Warfield received $7 million, and the hospital's pain clinic was named in her honor. Additionally, the hospital agreed to host an annual lecture series on women’s health and the contributions of women in surgery.

Clearly, while Dr. Warfield may have been the chief anesthesiologist, she showed that when it comes to workplace discrimination, you can't just anesthetize the problem.

Need more tips? Check out these articles:
How to protect your company from a lawsuit tip #4: Do not allow female employees to get harassed for profit

How to protect your company from a lawsuit tip #5: Allow your employees to sit

Need more tips? Check out these articles:

How to protect your company from a lawsuit tip #4: Do not allow female employees to get harassed for profit

How to protect your company from a lawsuit tip #5: Allow your employees to sit

For expert legal advice and representation in Washington State, contact LaGrandeur & Williams. We can't promise it, but you might just get your name on a building.