Anatomy of a Sex Discrimination Case

When an employee raises concerns regarding sex discrimination in the workplace, it is the employer’s job to thoroughly investigate the complaint in an effort to resolve the issue. When employers ignore signs of sex discrimination, sometimes they find themselves subject to an employment discrimination lawsuit. A recent article in the Des Moines Register details of just such a case involving an Iowa hospital administrator alleging that she was a victim of sex discrimination from the time she interviewed for a job until she was fired.

Employment Discrimination Can Happen at All Phases of the Employment Relationship

According to the Register’s account, the first sign of trouble was in 2016, when the plaintiff in the sex discrimination lawsuit interviewed for an out of state job at an Iowa hospital. The interviewer asked if her husband would accompany her to the state for the job, to which she answered she was a single mom. He responded by pointing to a picture of his wife and children saying he “couldn’t do the job without his wife’s support,” hinting at his lack of confidence in her ability to handle the  job right from the start. Uneasy about the implications, the employee voiced her concerns regarding the interview to her superior and was told the behavior was ‘known’ and was part of the reason she was being hired, but nothing more was done.

Employer Fails to Act on Sex Discrimination Complaints

After getting up and running in the new job, the employee raised concerns to her superior again after a male colleague allegedly threw a tantrum at her suggestion that he attend a training session. His disrespectful body language – rolling his eyes and turning his back to her – and habit of referring to the plaintiff condescendingly as ‘Mizz’ signaled possible sex discrimination, but no action was taken according to the employee.

Apparently, it didn’t end there. Subsequently, after the employee initiated a new protocol at the hospital for the benefit of employees, she alleges she was berated by another male colleague who called her incompetent, adding that “she had three directors doing the same work that one man used to do.” Her complaints regarding the incident went unanswered.

At some point during her employment, the female employee discovered that despite holding a master’s degree and managing more departments than her bachelor-level male predecessor, she was earning roughly $60,000 less annually. When she raised her concerns, she alleges she was told that her job title was different and she had less seniority. It still didn’t seem quite right because she handled the same tasks as her predecessor and more.

Sex Discrimination Retaliation | Wrongful Termination

Over the course of the woman’s employment with the Iowa hospital, she received positive feedback during periodic reviews. A glowing 2017 performance review read “well-developed, experienced leadership style” and noted her for being “fair, just, and pragmatic.” This was followed by another shining review in 2018 describing the employee as “approachable, a keen listener and having excellent content and departmental knowledge.”

However, according to the Register’s account, a month after her final review, an anonymous complaint against the seemingly stellar employee was zealously investigated, akin to a “fishing expedition” according to the lawsuit where fellow employees were asked gender based questions including questions about the sexuality of the accused. As the investigation progressed, out of the blue, the employee was told all previous complaints she made had been resolved – open and shut. She was subsequently fired for “conduct of which she had never been warned or reprimanded.”

Contact a Des Moines Employment Discrimination Lawyer for Help

The case, still ongoing, exemplifies the experience that many employees who have been subject to sex discrimination share: a culture of unchecked sex discrimination including sexual harassment; an employer’s failure to thoroughly investigate complaints regarding sex discrimination; and adverse actions taken against the victim in retaliation for raising concerns.

If you are subject to discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, color, or national origin, age or disability resulting in an adverse employment action from being passed over for promotion to losing your job, it is important to seek the help of an experienced employment law attorney. Contact the employment discrimination and wrongful termination lawyers of Stoltze & Stoltze PLC today at515.989.8529.

Source: Des Moines Register, “Former radiology director sues Mercy Medical Center for allegations of discrimination as far back as her hiring interview”, January 9, 2020.