In an employment discrimination trial, a Florida, United States jury awarded punitive damages of US$500,000 (equivalent to R$2.7 million) to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales manager who did not was promoted to general manager of the Cigar City Motors dealership because… Well, “this is a man’s job, not a woman’s.”
This and other gender stereotypes, embedded in the labor market, supported the accusation of discrimination in a lawsuit filed by the Commission on Equal Employment Opportunities (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — US EEOC) against Cigar City Motors, which operates five dealerships in Florida.
The accusation was supported by documentary and testimonial evidence. For example, records show that the company never promoted a woman to the position of general manager—at least until she was sued.
Former general managers of the concessionaire testified that the woman was qualified for the position, but the company did not promote her because it considered her too “maternal”. Other testimonies indicated that the woman was passed over in other promotions, despite being as or more qualified than the men who were promoted to the position.
One of the employees who got the promotion admitted that a member of the company’s management, who participated in the decisions, made several derogatory comments about the women when explaining why they could not be selected for this position.
All eight jurors returned a unanimous verdict that condemned the concessionaire to pay punitive damages, understanding that the company, motivated by gender stereotypes, denied the promotion of women. And, of course, that constitutes discrimination.
The EEOC hailed the verdict as a victory for women struggling against stereotypes in the workplace, such as that leadership positions should be held by men — not women.
“It’s a significant victory in an industry dominated by men, where women have to break glass ceilings to advance in their careers,” the EEOC lawyer told the newspaper Times-Dispatch.
Interestingly, unfavorable stereotypes for women can come from… Women. Author of the news for the Times-Dispatch, journalist Karen Michael interviewed a woman in a leadership position at a company who admitted to having denied promotion to a manager in the belief that a woman with two small children could not travel on business. But she took the initiative to do training on implicit biases, analyzing how they impacted her decision-making process. An advance.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) definition of gender stereotype, cited by the Iberdrola website, is that “it is a generalized opinion or prejudice about attributes or characteristics that men and women possess or should have possess or the social functions that both perform or should perform”.
Implied stereotypes (or prejudices) are more difficult to identify. Explicit ones are obviously easier to identify and to combat. Either way, both are common to all cultures.
Gender stereotypes, explicit and implicit, are also not exclusive to people with little or no educational background. A study of the Center for WorkLife Law, quoted by the Harvard Business Review, revealed that they are common in law firms. For example, in one of the cases cited by the survey, lawyers referred to a lawyer, in a tone of praise, as the “office mom.”
Over time, many gender stereotypes will continue to disappear, but one thing has already changed, thanks to the Florida jury’s verdict: Companies will have to re-educate themselves and get rid of gender stereotypes if they don’t want to pay punitive damages from, for example, half a million dollars.