Proving a claim of sex discrimination can be a challenge in most cases. You must be able to establish that gender was a "motivating factor" in the challenged decisions. It can be even more challenging when the employee is male. Although sex discrimination against male employees is not as common, it does and can happen. A male assistant manager faced this challenged in a recent case out of the Eighth Circuit, but was unsuccessful making his case.
The employee's disciplinary history
The employee, an assistant manager at a blood plasma collection facility, received good performance reviews for the first few years of his employment. Then, in late 2011, he received two verbal warnings for revealing confidential information. Then in January 2012, he again received several verbal and written warnings for performance problems, including failure to sufficiently build relationships, interact with staff, manage workflow and failing to deliver timely corrective actions to subordinates. Even after going on a development plan, the performance problems continued.
Complaints to HR of discrimination
In August, the employee reported to HR that he was being discriminated against because of his gender. After conducting an investigation, HR determined that there was no discrimination and the employee was issued a final written warning. The employee took a leave of absence four a couple of months. Then, at the end of October, two of his subordinates got into a physical altercation. While he investigated the incident, he did not report it to his manager, HR or anyone else for several days. This was against company policy which required the immediate reporting of all harassment to a manager and HR. The employee was ultimately fired for failing to report the incident.
Claim of sex discrimination fails
The employee filed his lawsuit alleging both sex discrimination and retaliation. He claimed that the disciplinary warnings he received were the result of his female manager's animosity toward him. However, it was undisputed that he also received discipline from a male manager. Neither did the employee dispute that the instances of poor performance. What he did claim was that there were female coworkers who were never disciplined and there were other male coworkers who felt targeted by female managers. This "me too" evidence was rejected, as was the female comparator who did not have the same performance deficiencies. More importantly, it was undisputed that the reason he was terminated, the failure to report the altercation between subordinates for eight days was unrebutted.
The basis for Circuit Court's decision
The employer filed a motion for summary judgment against all of the discrimination claims. The motion was granted by the trial court, which dismissed the claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the decision on appeal. The court reasoned that the employee did not dispute his performance deficiencies, he was disciplined by a male manager as well as the female manager and overall he lacked any other evidence supporting his claim.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.