Female Boss Didn’t Want a Woman Doing So-Called Man’s Work
Single mother of seven had stellar employment record before she was fired
Is there such a thing as “men’s work” and “women’s
work?” Believe it or not, some people still think that’s the case.
Unfortunately, those attitudes may lead to gender discrimination in the
workplace. Let’s take a look at a recent sex-based discrimination
case and then discuss what it means to you.
Replaced with a man
Katie Mayes, a single mother of seven children, had worked at a WinCo grocery
store for nearly seven years when she was awarded a new title: night-shift
supervisor for the freight crew.
As part of her promotion, Mayes was required to hold a leadership role
on the store’s safety committee. As in her previous roles at the
store, Mayes received positive performance reviews and followed company
rules, according to the store’s assistant manager.
However, things changed for Mayes when a new store manager – a woman
named Dana Steen – took over.
Steen removed Mayes from the safety committee and replaced her with a male
employee. When Mayes questioned her about the change, Steen allegedly
replied that she thought a man would do a better job in that position.
Mayes complained to the assistant store manager. She says that he told
her to “stay away” from Steen, because she didn’t like
having a woman in charge of the freight crew.
Not long after that, Mayes says that Steen began criticizing her for not
being able to come in on days off due to her childcare responsibilities.
One time when Mayes explained that she couldn’t stay late because
she had to pick up her children, Steen allegedly muttered “kids”
and walked away.
Mayes asserts that Steen never spoke this way to Mayes’s male counterpart,
even though he had similar childcare responsibilities.
Fired for supposed theft
One night, Mayes brought her crew a cake from the bakery’s “stale
cart,” which contained items that were no longer salable. Mayes
and her male counterpart both state that this was an allowed practice,
as it helped to motivate the freight crew during busy stocking periods.
Near this same time, the bakery reported a theft of a cake from a display
window. Steen ordered an investigation. It was determined that one of
Mayes’s employees had taken the fresh cake, and that Mayes had taken
a stale cake. Mayes told a loss-prevention representative that she had
permission from management to take cakes from the stale cart.
Both employees were fired.
Mayes’s position was filled by a man who had been hired three weeks
earlier. He had limited experience on the freight crew and no had prior
supervisory experience with the company.
Because she was fired for “gross misconduct,” Mayes and her
children were not eligible for health insurance coverage through COBRA,
and Mayes was unable to collect pay for her unused vacation time.
Sued for discrimination
Mayes consulted with an attorney and sued the company for gender discrimination.
Her attorneys argued that she was unfairly fired so that her manager could
put a male employee in charge of the freight crew.
The company tried to have the case thrown out, arguing that Mayes had no
evidence of sex-based discrimination. It also asserted that Steen could
not have discriminated against Mayes because both were women.
A lower court initially agreed to dismiss the case, but Mayes appealed.
This time, Mayes was victorious. The appeals court allowed the case to proceed.
(The case discussed here is
Mayes v. WinCo Holdings, Inc.)
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According to the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal law forbids sex-based discrimination when it comes to any aspect
of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions,
layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of
If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against because of your
gender, it’s wise to speak to an attorney to find out more about
your rights under the law.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.