The main statue that applies when evaluating Anne’s scenario is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states that it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2019). The Accounting Firm violated this statute on the basis of sex, using Anne’s gender as the main consideration in their decision not to promote her to Partner. Deciding to choose a male with lesser qualifications and experience is gender discrimination. Anne was clearly the best candidate for Partner of the two candidates mentioned because she had been with the company 4 years longer and had just recently secured a $10M client, indicating exceptionally high performance. Gender stereotyping is also a factor in this case because the Partnership Review Committee indicated her chances would have been better if she “wore makeup, jewelry, and acted more femininely.” These are all assumptions and generalizations of how women should appear but are not true 100% for all women and cannot be forced upon someone simply because she’s female. How Anne was treated in this scenario is not uncommon. Women make up 45 percent of associate attorneys at the largest law firms, but only 18 percent of equity partners. Female associates make 89.7 percent of men’s salaries and equity partners, and 80 percent (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2019).
Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, a case from 1989, very similarly aligns with the scenario involving Anne. Ann Hopkins was an outstanding associate and the partners at the firm noted her accomplishments and character on an ongoing basis. Their only issues had to do with her falling short of their expectations of how a female should look and act. All of their criticism was based on gender stereotyping, not facts, just like with Anne and the Accounting Firm.
To help prevent this type of situation from happening and unnecessary liability, the Firm can take a number of different steps. First, they need to recognize that in a male dominated industry, they likely have biases that they may not realize. The partners could benefit from discrimination training and sexual harassment training to make sure they avoid these biases in their comments and actions. Most attitudes within a company come from the top down so it is very important for them to be aware of these things. Next, the partners should establish a system for advancement within their company. Having a defined career path can help avoid situations such as the one in the scenario where someone with less experience and lower performance gets promoted over someone more qualified, who may or may not be part of a protected class which opens the company to huge liability. If there is a clear path, employees know what is expected of them to move to the next level and advance through the company, even to partner in Anne’s case.