Workplace Culture

The 3rd Nominee for the ‘Worst Employer of 2017’ Is … the Direct Discriminator

By Jon Hyman

Feb. 6, 2017

Our next nominee for the Worst Employer of 2017 is the defendant in Mayes v. WinCo Holdings (9th Cir. 2/3/17) [pdf] — WinCo, a Bosie, Idaho, supermarket chain.

The plaintiff, Katie Mayes, a night-shift supervisor, was fired for taking a stale cake from the store bakery to share with fellow employees after management allegedly gave her permission to do so. That, however, is not what earned WinCo the nomination. Instead, it’s what the court found Mayes’s direct supervisor expressed about her (yes, her) belief about a woman running the night-shift:

At about the same time the bakery department instructed Mayes to take cakes only from the stales cart, Mayes started experiencing difficulties with Dana Steen, the general manager as of 2007. According to Mayes, Steen replaced Mayes as chair of the safety committee with a male employee, and when she asked Steen for an explanation, Steen told her that “a male would be better in that position.” Mayes testified that when she told McCartney that she thought Steen had treated her unfairly, McCartney advised Mayes to “stay away” from Steen because Steen said she did not like that “a girl” was running the freight crew. Mayes further asserts that in early 2011, Steen criticized her because she had children and could not stay late or come in on her days off. Mayes testified that she told Steen that she had to leave early to pick up her children from school, and that Steen said “kids,” and walked away. According to Mayes, Steen did not make similar comments about kids to Olson, who sometimes also left early because he had to care for his children.

As the court correctly noted, “Direct evidence of discrimination is often not easy to come by.” When you find it, however, it earns the employer a well deserved nomination for the Worst Employer of 2017.
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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