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Telling Female Employees They Can't Excel Like Men Can Be Actionable


As long as employment discrimination lawsuits have been around, one might think that employers would have learned to stop making clearly discriminatory comments to employees. But a recent case involving a female employee of Indian descent demonstrates what little some employers have learned about anti-discrimination laws.

The case of Naidu v. Teva Pharmaceuticals

As is typical with many employment discrimination cases, Ms. Viji Naidu was a successful employee at Teva Pharmaceuticals, receiving glowing performance evaluations and promotions until she got a new manager. Almost immediately, her performance reviews suffered leading to a Performance Improvement Plan. She filed an internal complaint against her new manager for gender and national origin discrimination, which ultimately led to her termination two months later.

Evidence of discriminatory comments by manager

There was evidence that Naidu’s supervisor had made comments about her being a working mother, questioning whether she was forced to work because her husband did not make sufficient money to support the family. The most egregious comment, possibly direct evidence of discriminatory animus was the statement he made to Naidu that “being an Indian or a woman, you know, you really can’t excel like men.” In addition to these comments, he allegedly questioned her constantly regarding how her household was able to function with a working mother. He also criticized non-stereotypically feminine behavior that he otherwise tolerated in men. These comments could permit the court or a jury to make an inference of discrimination.

Is the Glass Ceiling Real and Can Women Break Through?

Despite the media’s attempts to depict women as gaining more success in the corporate world, gender discrimination is alive and well in our country. Yes, the so-called “glass ceiling” is real and women and minorities continue to bump their heads into it daily. The “glass ceiling” is the clever term for the subtle barrier that prevents women and minorities from moving up the corporate ladder. Although women can often see the high-level corporate positions that are available, they are routinely kept from achieving those positions. So, how can women break through?

Women should be prepared to deal with discrimination in the workplace

No matter how sound your advancement strategies may be, you will still likely face discrimination in the workplace. When faced with discrimination, it will help if you have developed a plan for how to deal with it, while continuing to implement your strategic plan for success. More importantly, do not be quick to label every roadblock as being based on discrimination. This perspective could make your supervisors and co-workers uncomfortable. If you are not trusted, you will not get the assignments that will help you advance, and it will also become more difficult to lead others.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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