Corporations Sued for Gender Discrimination Against Women and Men

business team posing for a group shot


nullplus/Getty Images

Societal norms, rules, and roles instruct and encourage men to value (or devalue) women even in the United States even where there are anti-discrimination laws in place to discourage such attitudes.

In the workplace, women are frequently subjected to subtle discrimination by both sexes. Qualified women may be passed over for promotions because they become pregnant (pregnancy discrimination). Jobs may be offered to a less qualified male applicant just because he is male.

Women are also more likely to be judged by their looks and how they dress than their male counterparts. On a note of contradiction, women are not only discriminated against for being pretty or provocative they are also discriminated against for being not pretty enough, too old, or, in some positions (especially sales and public relations) for not being sexy enough.

If men get more time off, better compensation packages, or more benefits than women based on unfair gender bias, it's also gender discrimination and it is illegal.

Despite protective anti-discrimination laws making gender discrimination illegal, management practices at small, mid-size, and even giant corporations often still favor the advancement of men.

Companies Sued for Discrimination Against Women

Microsoft. Women at Microsoft filed 238 complaints with the company's HR department between 2010 and 2016, including 108 complaints about sexual harassment and 119 about gender discrimination. There were also eight complaints of retaliation and three about pregnancy discrimination.

The court documents are part of a gender discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft filed in 2015 by Katherine Moussouris, a computer security researcher who worked at the company from 2007-2014. She claims she was passed over for promotions while male colleagues, who were less qualified, were promoted.

Two other Microsoft employees Holly Muenchow and Dana Piermarini later joined the suit. As of 2018, no trial date has been set.

Computer Sciences Corporation. CSC was sued by a former high-level female executive who was fired after identifying and complaining about pattern and practice gender discrimination and sexual harassment. She was told to quit complaining. She did not, and she was fired in 2012. 

Walmart. In 2011, Walmart dodged a bullet when the Supreme Court ultimately overturned a decision that would have held Walmart accountable in a class action suit. The justices ruled that the "women did not share enough in common to qualify as a class in what would have been the largest class action discrimination suit in history." However, individual lawsuits against Walmart continue to be filed. 

Quest Diagnostics and AmeriPath. The two labs have been sued in federal court for widespread and systematic discriminatory practices against women. Without admitting guilt, in 2012 the company agreed to pay $152 million to more than 5,000 current and former female employees. The company also agreed to spend $22.5 million to institute new human resources policies and procedures. 

Gender Discrimination Happens to Men, Too

It's not as common, but men are discriminated against too.

Ventura Corporation. Ventura Corporation, a wholesaler of beauty products, was sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for discriminating against men because the company refused to hire men as sales reps. 

The EEOC charged in its suit that Ventura engaged in a pattern or practice of refusing to hire men as Zone Managers and Support Managers. The EEOC also alleged that Ventura promoted Erick Zayas into a Zone Manager position after he complained about its discriminatory practices, only to set him up for failure and termination in retaliation for his opposition to Ventura's sex-based hiring practices.

According to the terms of the 2014 consent decree settling the suit, Ventura paid $354,250 to settle the lawsuit, including a payment to Zayas of $150,000.

Lawry's. One of the most famous cases of male discrimination was a class action suit against Lawry's, a California-based corporation operating restaurants in Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Corona del Mar, Calif.

Lawry's had a tradition of hiring only female waitstaff. The only reason for this was tradition. A substantial verdict against Lowry's was the result of the class action suit in 2016. The EEOC reached a settlement in the sex discrimination class action lawsuit for $1,025,000. 

Yahoo. Gregory Anderson was employed in Yahoo’s media division until he was fired in 2014. He filed a lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging the company’s performance management system was arbitrary and unfair. Yahoo uses a numeric ranking system to evaluate employees’ performance and often fires those with the lowest scores, according to the suit. The complaint says that when male and female employees got equally low scores, the women are favored and the men are fired.

Jimmy FallonPaul Tarascio, a former stage manager for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon filed a lawsuit against NBC Universal, Fallon, and employees of Late Night, alleging that the show has a gender bias. In papers filed in 2013, Paul Tarascio claimed he was demoted while working for Fallon after being told by Late Night director David Diomdi, “Jimmy just prefers to take direction from a woman.” Tasarscio lost his court case.

The #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo movement was birthed in 2017 when sexual harassment claims were made against Hollywood Mogul Harvey Weinstein by actress Ashley Judd who spotlighted the issue by giving her story to major news outlets. Years earlier, Weinstein had threatened Judd if she did not agree to perform a sexual act on him. Following that, dozens of other celebrities (including Gwyneth Paltrow) came forward with sexual misconduct claims (and more than one claim of rape) against Weinstein. In 2018, Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape.

Weinstein's case dominated the news—in part because of the extent of his egregious behavior but also because of the high-profile women he preyed on. However, a year before Weinstein (in 2017), beloved comedian Bill Cosby was accused of drugging (and in one case raping) several dozen women going back 20 years beginning with accuser Andrea Constand, a protege. Even though nearly 60 women came forward to tell their stories of sexual advances and misconduct, Cosby's 2017 trial ended in a mistrial. However, he was retired in 2018 and convicted of three counts of rape.

Men Fired in 2017 

Weinstein and Cosby were not alone. In 2017, such entertainment luminaries as NBC's Matt Lauer, PBS's Charlie Rose, and New York Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine were all fired after claims of sexual abuse and harassment were found to be true.

Employees in the workplace are protected by the law against sexual discrimination and are protected from superiors who use their position to prey on them. The #MeToo movement let it be known that inappropriate behavior should be reported to HR, to management, to colleagues, and associates without delay.