Higher Termination Rate Among Women Suggested Discrimination

 

By Lorraine M. Catalusci February 5, 2019
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​A bank manager who presented evidence that her employer fired women at a higher rate than it fired men advanced her gender-discrimination claim to trial.

Citizens Financial employed the plaintiff for 18 years. At the time of her termination, her position required managing the bank and supervising employees. The plaintiff started receiving complaints from her employees in 2009. The employees complained that she was unprofessional, intimidating and rude. In response, the regional manager prepared a performance development plan. Later, the employer placed the plaintiff on a performance improvement plan.

The employer terminated the plaintiff after more employee complaints were received. The stated reason for the termination was that the plaintiff created a hostile work environment in violation of the harassment-free workplace policy. The plaintiff denied some of the conduct the employees complained of but admitted that she yelled; slammed a drawer shut; threatened a banker with loss of employment; and spoke to her colleagues in a direct, "no fluff" manner. The employer hired a 55-year-old man to replace the plaintiff.

To support her gender-discrimination claim, the plaintiff claimed that some employees were treated more favorably and were not disciplined for violating company policies. In addition, one of her employees testified that the plaintiff's discipline of two of the employees who complained of her behavior was appropriate and not overly harsh. The employee also testified that profanity was commonly used at the branch. The court agreed with the plaintiff. It determined that she presented enough evidence showing that female branch managers were fired at a much higher rate than their male counterparts, and she could proceed to trial.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Equal Employment Opportunity]

But the court did not agree with the plaintiff regarding her other claims of age and disability discrimination and retaliation. It observed that she was not replaced by a younger man but by someone who was the same age. Also, she failed to show that the bank knew that she thought age was a factor in the denial of a transfer that she sought prior to her discharge. In addition, the court noted at least a nine-month gap between her complaint about the transfer denial and her termination.

Finally, the plaintiff failed to show that the bank knew that she had leg and lower-back pain at the time of her termination, and therefore she failed to prove discrimination due to her impairment.

Stubenrauch v. Citizens Financial Group Inc., E.D. Mich., No. 4:16-cv-12948 (Nov. 26, 2018).

Professional Pointer: This case presents a reminder of the importance of documenting employee discipline. The documentation should be sufficiently detailed, including dates and names of complaining employees.

Lorraine M. Catalusci is an attorney at Ross, Brittain & Schonberg Co. LPA, the Worklaw® Network member firm in Cleveland.

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