Woman Can Be Trash Collectors, Too: Judge Rules in EEOC’s Favor in Sex Discrimination Case

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

Women often are the victims of gender discrimination when they apply for traditionally “male” jobs. This type of gender discrimination is particularly pernicious because it is a vicious cycle: a “man’s job” is a “man’s job” because men tend to do it, which discourages interested women from applying because doing so goes “against their sex.” Thus, when women inevitably do not apply, the job remains only a “man’s job.” According to the World Bank, “Gender segregation in access to economic opportunities in turn reinforces gender differences in time use and in access to inputs, and perpetuates market and institutional failures.”  As a result, women—especially those less educated who live in poorer regions—face greater challenges than men finding work and supporting themselves and their families.

To fight these market and institutional failures in the United States, Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against women in employment. Enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Title VII is the U.S.’s principal defense against sex discrimination.

On October 26, 2015, in EEOC v. Workplace Staffing Solutions, LLC, the EEOC filed a complaint against Workplace Staffing in Jackson, Mississippi, alleging that Workplace Staffing discriminated against a class of women who sought to be trash collectors by discouraging them from applying for the position and denying those who did apply. In September 2012, Jonika Walton, a qualified individual, inquired about a trash collector job with Lisa Hayes, an employee of Workplace Staffing. Hayes told her that the position was a “male only” job and ended the conversation. This conversation deterred Walton from applying for the position. Workplace Staffing told another female applicant that “industrial jobs that are usually for men,” while another was told that the trash collector job was “more of a job for a guy.” . Workplace Staffing ultimately hired approximately 130 persons for the trash collector positions: all were male.

On July 18, 2016, Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. ruled in favor of the EEOC. On default judgment, the court ordered Workplace Staffing to pay $179,000 in total monetary damages, with $36,500 for the benefit of Walton and the rest spread among five other women who were denied employment due to their sex.

“Sex discrimination continues to be a barrier for women seeking employment,” said C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “EEOC believes this is a significant problem for women who seek temporary employment through some staffing agencies. The law demands that women receive equal employment opportunities. Employers are not allowed to presume that women would not be interested in performing certain types of jobs. EEOC stands ready to stop these violations in court, if necessary.”

If you think you have been denied a job because of your sex or gender, contact The Harman Firm, LLP