- A car dealership in Independence, Missouri, refused to hire women for sales positions or men for cashier, clerical or other office positions, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC v. Landmark Dodge Inc. and Landmark South Inc., No. 4:22-cv-614 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 27, 2022)). When an HR director and recruiter informed the general manager this was illegal and tried to intervene, he yelled at them, called them “liars,” and threatened them with termination, according to the complaint.
- Per the EEOC, the dealership allegedly refused to hire women for sales roles because they “do not get the respect necessary to be successful at car sales,” “end up quitting because it is not a ‘clerical job,’” and “sit at their desks.” A sales manager refused to meet a female interview applicant because of her sex, EEOC said. The company also steered men away from office roles and told one male applicant the job he applied for was a “woman’s position.”
- “There is no justification for sex-segregated workplaces,” said David Davis, acting director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, in a release from the agency. “Unfortunately, retaliation against workers who oppose discriminatory employment practices remains a persistent problem.”
This particular case shows how HR professionals sometimes find themselves caught between employer demands and legal requirements.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating in hiring and other employment decisions on the basis of sex, among other protected classes. Based on the EEOC’s complaint, the HR workers were likely familiar with this statute.
Compliance-aware HR pros have also taken steps that protect their employers from liability, as in the case of an HR department that quickly addressed a harassment complaint through an investigation. Due to the department’s prompt action, the employer could not be held liable for harassment, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held.
Insisting on adherence to the law can sometimes create awkward situations for HR, but not doing so can be costly and damaging. Activision Blizzard learned this lesson last year, when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing held the company accountable for “foster[ing] a sexist culture,” including paying women lower salaries, assigning them to lower-level roles and tolerating prevalent sexual harassment. According to sources who spoke to HR Dive last year, that culture was enabled by a lax, and sometimes negligent, HR department. The company eventually settled an EEOC suit involving similar allegations for $18 million.
While HR has struggled with reputational issues nearly since the department’s inception, HR Dive found in its annual Identity of HR survey that those in the department are beginning to feel more valued by employees. Protecting workers’ rights — often through knowledge of the law’s requirements — may be one way to turn the reputational tide.