Overview: Because a senior-level male manager thought that women couldn’t perform physically strenuous work, an employer was forced to pay a whopping $5 million to resolve a gender-bias lawsuit.
The scenario: Shortly after he became the senior VP of operations for Performance Food Group (PFG), Dan Pekscamp told his management team that women were physically unable to handle the rigors of working in a warehouse. He asked, “Why would we waste our time bringing in females?”
The new approach had an immediate impact on Kimberly Avery, a woman who applied for a job at a PFG facility in Little Rock, AR. She was told point-blank by the male hiring manager that he didn’t want women laboring in the warehouse because the work was too strenuous, women quickly quit the job and they had too many child-care issues.
Avery wasn’t hired.
And women already employed by the company experienced widespread gender discrimination.
For instance, Julie Lawrence applied for a promotion at PFG’s Carroll County, MD, facility. Her male boss supported the promotion and said that Lawrence was well qualified for the job. But when Lawrence’s resume was presented to Pekscamp, he refused to look at it, stating, “I am not interested in seeing anything from a woman.”
After she wasn’t promoted, Lawrence contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Legal challenge: The EEOC sued PFG for gender discrimination. The lawsuit included an analysis of internal PFG data showing that women were woefully underrepresented in the company’s workforce.
The ruling: The company lost. PFG paid $5 million to settle the case.
Based on EEOC v. Performance Food Group, Inc.
(From the Feb. 5, 2021, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To sign up for a no-obligation trial subscription right now, please click here.)