Checking the news today I came across a handful of articles relating to lawsuits being brought against companies for unfair treatment in the work place, ranging from harassment to gender discrimination. Electronics maker Toshiba is under fire and facing a class action lawsuit over its pay practices and treatment of women, the Intrepid Museum Foundation is facing a lawsuit from a former employee who claims a supervisor was committing acts that amount to “hazing” and was discriminating based on race.
Toshiba is no stranger to class action lawsuits, though they are generally dealing with them from the consumer side, the same goes with the Intrepid Museum, who faced lawsuits over losing photographs, but as far as I can tell no harassment suits. In cases like this you wonder if this is a systemic problem, as it seems to be in Toshiba, with women making about 80% of what men make in similar positions, and the claim that women are passed over for promotion in favor of less-qualified men, or if it’s the case of “one bad apple” creating a negative atmosphere within a department as it seems to be in the Intrepid case.
Whatever the reason for discrimination or harassment, clearly it needs to be stopped, and while a lawsuit is effective in terms of rewarding damages to the complainants, is it really going to create the change needed within the organizations? Chances are that it will not, unless the companies can also be forced to look at their practices, instead of just making settlements and paying off those people who bring these lawsuits. Toshiba needs to go over hiring and promotion policies, as well as payment, not only to bring it to “fair” levels, but to ensure that they are complaint with employment law. The Intrepid Museum Foundation needs to look at its hiring practices as well, and determine if it wants to keep hiring people like the manager who is harassing his subordinates.
We all deserve to work in workplaces where we get equal pay for equal work and where we are not discriminated against based on the color of our skin, our gender, or any other characteristic. What we deserve, and what we are legally told we should be receiving is not always what we actually end up with, and we must find a way to make this change. Lawsuits and bringing attention to these problems are the first step, but where do we go from here?
References: “Toshiba’s U.S. Unit Faces $100 Million Gender-Discrimination Suit” Chad Bray. The Wall Street Journal. February 1, 2011.
“Harass Suit Hits Intrepid” Erica Orden. The Wall Street Journal. January 29, 2011.