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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Does Sex Discrimination Exist When An Employer Fires A Female Employee But Not Male Employees Who Engage In The Same Misconduct?

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Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Having represented employees victimized by sex discrimination for almost twenty years, our Marion County, Florida sex discrimination attorneys have learned that sex discrimination most often occurs when employers treat an employee differently or less favorably from other employees of the opposite sex. In forbidding employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, as observed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993), Congress intended “to strike at the entire spectrum of disparate treatment of men and women in employment.” As explained by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ortega v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 943 F.2d 1230 (10th Cir. 1991), “[d]isparate treatment occurs where the employer simply treats some people less favorably than others because of their sex or other protected status.” The recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Grace v. Centerpoint Energy, Inc., 2017 WL 4638020 (S.D. Miss. Oct. 16, 2017) is instructive in showing that sex discrimination can often be proven by the mere fact of differences in treatment. 

Male Employees Not Fired For Falsifying Documents

In Grace, Arthea Grace (Grace) claimed that her former employer, CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (CenterPoint), terminated her on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII. Grace was employed by CenterPoint as a service technician. In 2015, CenterPoint fired Grace on the grounds that she violated a company rule by falsifying company documents. Grace allegedly violated a company rule banning such falsification when she submitted documents to CenterPoint to resolve a report of a gas leak.

CenterPoint filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Grace’s sex discrimination claim. In doing so, CenterPoint asked the trial court to find that Grace’s sex discrimination claim failed as a matter of law and Grace was not permitted to present her case to a jury. The trial court denied CenterPoint’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Grace’s sex discrimination claim must decided by a jury.

Although Grace claimed that she did not falsify any company documents, the trial court assumed for purposes of ruling on CenterPoint’s motion that Grace did violate CenterPoint’s ban on falsifying company documents. In assuming that Grace engaged in the alleged misconduct justifying her termination, the trial court turned to evidence regarding CenterPoint’s treatment of male employees who also violated CenterPoint’s rule against falsifying company documents. In doing so, the trial court focused on two male employees, Childers and McCornell, who held the same position and reported to the same supervisor as Grace.

Differences In Treatment Are Evidence Of Discriminatory Motive

In denying CenterPoint’s motion for dismissal, the trial court found that Childers and McCornell also falsified company documents while responding to a gas leak just like Grace. Although Childers and McCornell violated the same company rule as Grace, they were not, unlike Grace, terminated for falsifying company documents. In finding that male employees “were not punished similarly” to Grace, the trial court also rejected CenterPoint’s argument its more favorable treatment of Childers and McCornell was justified because Childers and McCornell only “negligently falsified company documents, while Grace did so intentionally and consequently put a customer at serious risk of injury or death.” In rejecting this argument, the trial court explained that the “rule Grace allegedly violated was not a ban on falsifying company documents intentionally, nor was it a ban on falsifying company documents in a way that could put customers at serious risk of injury or death.” Rather, the trial court emphasized, the rule was “a ban on falsifying company documents, period.” Thus, the trial court concluded, because Grace was treated less favorably than male employees who engaged in the same misconduct, Grace had produced evidence of CenterPoint’s sex-based discriminatory motive and was entitled to have her sex discrimination claim resolved by a jury.

Free Consultation With Ocala Sex Discrimination Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have almost twenty years of experience litigating cases involving sex discrimination in the workplace. If you are the victim of sex discrimination or have questions about an employer’s more favorable treatment of employees of the opposite sex, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida sex discrimination lawyers. Our employee rights law firm takes sex discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover. 

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