Human Resources News & Insights

Gender bias in promotion decision costs healthcare firm a cool $125k

Here’s another reminder that a woman’s pregnancy can’t be used against her in any employment situation — including promotion decisions. 

Maryland-based Dimensions Healthcare System will pay $125,000 and furnish other significant relief to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Cassandra Crawford worked in Dimensions’ patient financial services department in Cheverly, MD, for over seven years, and had two years of team lead experience managing several team members and performing various human resources tasks.

Crawford was on maternity leave from January to April 2014.

In October 2014, Dimensions promoted a less-qualified male employee to a management position. The man had less than two years of entry-level experience with the company and had previously been disciplined for attendance issues.

The EEOC suit alleged that a Dimensions vice president, Judy Selvage, told Crawford that the organization had considered promoting Crawford, but instead promoted the male employee because Crawford had been “on maternity leave for a while.”

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division after first attempting to reach a settlement with Dimensions.

On Sept. 2, 2016, the court denied Dimensions’ motion for summary judgment. The court found that Selvage’s statement “could be direct evidence of sex bias under Title VII.”

The court also found that similar evidence developed during litigation could show that Selvage had a pattern of discriminating against women who took maternity leave. What’s more, the court said, the EEOC could prove its case through circumstantial evidence because the evidence could establish that Crawford had superior qualifications.

In addition to the $125,000 in monetary relief to Crawford, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Dimensions from failing to promote based on sex. Dimensions will revise its job posting and internal transfer policy to implement a clear, non-subjective promotion policy and make clear that the healthcare provider does not discriminate based on sex, pregnancy or maternity leave.

This policy will also require its HR department to monitor all activities to ensure compliance with the anti-discrimination policy. Dimensions will provide annual anti-discrimination training to all managers, supervisors and human resources employees. The healthcare provider will also report to the EEOC on its compliance with the consent decree, including how it handles any complaints of sex discrimination, and post a notice regarding the settlement.

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