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Gender Discrimination: Firing An Employee For Looking Like A “Tomboy” Is Unlawful Gender Discrimination.

On Behalf of | Oct 8, 2013 | Gender Discrimination |

Cleveland, Ohio Discriminate Based On Gender Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm Lawyers Attorneys

Many people are surprised to learn just how common gender discrimination in the workplace still is today. However, as our employment and gender discrimination lawyers will tell you, “traditional” views on gender roles are still deeply ingrained in our society, even if we are more aware of the need to treat employees equally, regardless of their gender. These views often come to the forefront when someone holding such views is required to work with someone who challenges their perceptions.

Take, for example, the “tomboyish” female front-desk clerk and the supervisor who believes that front-desk clerks should be “pretty” and have a “Midwestern girl look” as was the case in Lewis v. Heartland Inns of America. It did not end well for the employer.

Lewis was a front-desk clerk for the Heartland Inn of America hotel located in Ankeny, Iowa. Lewis preferred to wear loose fitting clothing, including men’s button down shirts and slacks, and she avoided makeup and wore her hair short. She was an excellent employee, having received numerous compliments from hotel guest and two merit based pay raises. When the new boss (Ms. Cullinan) arrived, however, everything changed.

Cleveland, Ohio Attorney Lawyer Law Firm for employer Discriminate based on Sex and Gender

Cullinan immediately advocated for taking Lewis off of day shift because she lacked the ‘Midwestern girl look.’ Cullinan also liked to boast about the appearance of women staff members and had indicated that the Heartland staff should be ‘pretty,’ a quality she considered especially important for women working at the front desk. Cullinan also had advised a hotel manager not to hire a particular applicant because she was not pretty enough.

Cullinan decided to make current employees re-interview for their jobs. Cullinan also insisted that any interviews with front desk employees be videotaped, so that she could decide whether they were “pretty enough” for the job. When Lewis resisted, Cullinan fired her.

Lewis subsequently filed suit, alleging gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Iowa state law. The trial court granted the hotel’s motion for summary judgment, finding that “a Title VII plaintiff [who is a woman] must produce evidence that she was treated differently than similarly situated males.” On appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that Lewis did not need to prove that she was treated differently then similarly situated men, but that she suffered an adverse employment decision because of her gender. In making this finding, the Eighth Circuit joined a growing number of courts (Including the Sixth Circuit, in Smith v. City of Salem and Barnes v. City of Cincinnati) who have found that Title VII protects against adverse actions motivated by sex stereotyping.

If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your gender or sex, then call the right attorney. It is never appropriate to discriminate against female employees

Discrimination against women includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040, you will meet with an attorney from Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm to discuss wrongful discrimination claims and help you determine the best way to pursue your gender/sex discrimination claims.


The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to gender discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm or any individual attorney.

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