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Winning, and Losing, Lawsuits for Sex Discrimination

Another article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education today and written by Mary Ann Mason, co-director of the Berkeley Law Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, looks at how over the years women have won, and lost, lawsuits for tenure denial based on sex discrimination.  

The laws are there: “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or religion. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII and prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions,” Mason writes in the article. “What protection those laws offer has been the subject of evolving interpretation by federal courts,” however, and it has become “more difficult for a plaintiff in a tenure case to prove discrimination” these last 20 years.

Even if you are successful, the price may just be too high to pay. “In practice, few plaintiffs are reinstated, and most compensation packages do not financially justify the enormous time and expense of the lawsuit and the shame of replaying a failure in the public eye. Colleagues may avoid you, and you may [be] tagged with the odious label of ‘troublemaker,’ which almost guarantees you will not receive another job offer,” Mason writes.

On the positive side, Mason adds, the women who brought up and won lawsuits have contributed to creating a more open tenure procedure where candidates are today better informed of their rights. Still lacking, however, are equal opportunities to mentoring and the creation of a flexible tenure-track.

“Even with a fair, open process and family-responsive policies to help parents (still a distant goal at most universities), there will always be those who suffer the cruel sting of denial. I don’t think the answer is abolishing the tenure system… Instead, let’s just get on with making a good system a fair system for men and women,” concludes Mason.

2 comments on “Winning, and Losing, Lawsuits for Sex Discrimination”

  1. There continuing cases of discrimination in the workplace even with lawful immigrants here but still some take advantage of those here on conditional visas. It amazes me that there is not a watchdog division for this segment s well. Maybe with today’s technology (like hidden mini cameras) will reveal the truth in work environments.

  2. Michelle says:

    I think all women should fight discrimination in the work place regardless of the risk of becoming a “troublemaker”. I used to be called that constantly by a couple of people from the big corporation I use to work for. The important thing is to gather evidence and document it in writting every time it happens, include witnesses that can (or should since they will be sworn in front of a judge) to tell the truth. My advice never give up and document, document, document.
    also document your daily work assignments and accomplishments they will be usefull. The common strategy is to make your life miserable so you quit on your own; try to find a way to cope with the situation and do not quit when they want you to. I did it for at least five years before they laid me off – thinking that that was the chance to get ridd of me and now I have a strong case against this company- which is by the way a very large corporation which displayes on all the walls around each of its sites the flyers containing information about equal opprtunity employment and the law. Hillarious isn’t it?

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