Orange County Sexism Lawsuit Settled for $57k

A $57,500 settlement was reached in an Orange County gender discrimination lawsuit in which plaintiff, an employee of Irvine Range Water District, alleged she suffered system sexism by her superiors. secretary

Although the settlement agreement did not require the employer to concede any wrongdoing, plaintiff’s complaint asserted there was plenty.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiff was hired as an engineering technician for the district back in 2007. Four months later, she was promoted to executive secretary and then the following year, she received another promotion to analyst. However, things began to spiral downward when a new supervisor came on-board. 

Plaintiff alleged she was treated as her supervisor’s “own personal servant.” She was one of two female employees in her entire office, where 150 other people were employed. She was also one of the few Asian Americans working for the local government office.

Soon, the supervisor was reportedly assigning her to tasks that included things like:

  • Cleaning out his desk;
  • Purchasing gifts for people on his behalf;
  • Entering contacts into his personal cell phone.

These tasks she viewed as extreme disrespect, as they were not expected of any male or white colleagues of the same or similar title and position.

She reportedly complained to her supervisor about being asked to take on these tasks. Soon thereafter, she was passed over for a department promotion.

Plaintiff responded by filing an Orange County employment lawsuit alleging retaliation and gender discrimination.

The settlement agreement ultimately reached contained anti-disparagement clauses, which means neither side can discuss the matter publicly any further.

It’s difficult for some to imagine that in 2016, gender discrimination still exists. This is particularly true for women in younger generations, who have grown up with the baseline understanding that they were as capable and worthy as men in the workforce. However, old patriarchal systems die hard.

In 2014, following the firing of The New York Times’ Jill Abramson, there was speculation about whether sexism may have played a role – at least subtly. An analysis by FastCompany looked at whether gender bias may persist – and even thrive – in ways that may not be obvious, especially in career fields that are traditionally dominated by men. Some have referred to it as a “soft war on women.”

It involves the way in which women are perceived – and then ultimately treated – for violating traditional gender norms. For example, a woman who asks for a pay raise may be violating gender passivity norms. Those who express anger are not being warm. Those who succeed in traditionally male roles are violating incompetence norms.

And again – these norms aren’t based in reality, but they are based in our cultural and workforce traditions. We may have thought we were past that, but apparently, research suggests they continue.

Of course, gender discrimination on this level generally isn’t actionable. You can’t sue someone for not liking you. But when those perceptions evolve into actions that result in unfair treatment, then absolutely you may have legal grounds to take action.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression. Complaints of discrimination have to be filed with the department within one year of the date of the alleged discriminatory act. That’s why if you suspect you may have a claim, you will need to act soon and discuss your case with an employment lawyer.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Water District Pays $57,500 to Settle Employee’s Lawsuit Alleging Sexism, April 16, 2016, By Jeremiah Dobruck, The Los Angeles Times

More Blog Entries:

Report: Increase in Paid Family Leave in California, April 30, 2016, Orange County Gender Discrimination Lawyer Blog