Top Ohio Gender Discrimination Attorney Help: Can an employer choose another candidate over me because of my gender? How do I prove that my gender is the reason I didn’t get the job? What damages can I get if I pursue a wrongful failure to hire claim?
In today’s job market, it can be hard, if not nearly impossible, to find out why a prospective employer turned you down for a job. Was it something you said during the interview? Did a former employer say something bad about you? Was there a typo in your resume, or ketchup on your shirt during the interview? The possibilities can be frustratingly endless. And of course, the employer is never going to come out and just tell you why.
Perhaps you suspect you were discriminated against. You know than an employer can’t choose another candidate over you because of your race/color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability pursuant to federal law such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA“), as well as Ohio Revised Codes § 4112.01, § 4112.02(N), § 4112.05, and § 4112.14.
But how do you prove that that is what happened?
The recent case of Overman v. City of East Baton Rouge provides a rare example of a situation in which it was pretty clear to the plaintiff, April Overman, that she had been passed over for a job because of her gender. In fact, it was laughably obvious.
Overman had applied to be the Chief of Police for the City, along with several other candidates. Before being selected for interview, Overman and the other candidates were required to take a written test, in which Overman received a score of 96, and tied with another applicant for the highest score. The candidate who was eventual chosen for the position, Donald White, scored an 84, which was the eighth highest score. While that might be enough to raise suspicions, it gets much worse.
Both Overman and White were selected to interview by a committee appointed by the Mayor. All in all, 11 applicants were interviewed simultaneously by the committee, which consisted of 20 members. Afterwards, the committee selected 5 top contenders, which include Overman and White. Each the top 5 were then interviewed by the Mayor and four members of the committee.
During Overman’s interview, the Mayor and some of the committee members made gender based remarks and asked gender based questions, such as questions about how a woman would be able to handle and command a predominately male police department, and statements such as “lets talk about men.” Overman later learned that these questions were based on rumors the Mayor had heard that Overman had been involved in personality conflicts in her prior positions that involved her gender. In essence, upon learning that Overman had encountered gender discrimination during in prior positions, the Mayor thought it prudent to make sure Overman wouldn’t cause any problems in his department – talk about blaming the victim!
When White was eventually hired over Overman, Overman sued the City and the Mayor for gender discrimination in violation of Louisiana law and Title VII. Overman argued that she was clearly more qualified than White, and that the only reason White was chosen over her was because of her gender. Because Overman had not requested a jury, her case was tried directly to court in a bench trial.
In finding for Overman, the court provided a detailed explanation of the multitude of ways Overman was more qualified than White, such as:
- The Mayor testified that education was an important factor in the decision. Yet, White only had a high school diploma, while Overman had a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree in history, with magna cum laude honors, a master of arts degree in sociology, a law degree, and was enrolled in and close to completing of the requirements for obtaining her doctoral degree in urban studies.
- Overman attached a four page list of her law enforcement and legal experience to her application, which included experience such as certification as an instructor in National Drug Recognition, Intoxilyzer 5000, Drugged Driver Detection and DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety, and was an expert in Traffic Fatality Reconstruction and National Drug Recognition, in which she trained other trainers. Overman also had extensive training in law enforcement technology, employment issues, DNA and fingerprint evidence, ethics and professionalism, incident command systems, and emergency response, and she had also attended and presented at a variety of crime analysis seminars on different techniques for analyzing crime trends and patterns using data and mapping. On the other hand, White had attached a one page list in which more than half of the training and experience he listed was from the basic police academy training he had completed 20 years ago. Overman also had that training, but had omitted it from her application because it was just a requirement to be a police officer in Louisiana.
- White had been a Baton Rouge patrol officer for about six years before he joined the state highway patrol. Eight years later, White was promoted to a supervisory position with the highway patrol. As a result, White had limited law enforcement experience in the inner-city or urban settings. On the other hand, Overman had been a patrol officer for the city of New Orleans, and she had held various supervisory positions there, to include as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and commander, in which she had managed divisions pertaining to narcotics intelligence analysis, DWI enforcement, crime analysis, traffic fatality investigation, information technology, records and criminal history, reserve division/crisis transportation, and central evidence and property. As a result, Overman had extensive experience working in or managing units that dealt with urban crime and crime-related issues.
Between the glaringly obvious fact that Overman out classed White in every way, the court also considered the gender-based statements that had been made during Overman’s interview, and the less than credible explanations given by the Mayor to explain his decision making process in determining that the City and the Mayor had discriminated against Overman:
In summary, the plaintiff’s testimony is by far the most credible and any conflicts in the evidence are resolved in favor of the plaintiff. Considering all the uncontested facts, testimony and documents admitted at trial, and based on the applicable law and the analysis above, the court finds that the plaintiff has proven by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the reasons stated by the defendants for selecting White are not the true reasons, but are instead a pretext for discriminating against the plaintiff because of her sex. A preponderance of the credible evidence establishes that in selecting White and not the plaintiff for police chief the true motive was intentional discrimination against the plaintiff because of her sex.
Next, the court provided an analysis of Overman’s damages. Noting that punitive damages were not available because the City was a governmental entity, and that Overman had failed to present evidence of compensatory damages, the court focused on back pay and lost benefits.
Overman had provided testimony regarding her pay as a police captain for New Orleans, and it was undisputed that the police chief position paid significantly more. However, Overman had retired and earned nearly as much as the police chief position from her pension a year after she was declined for the position. Likewise, the court noted that Overman had provided no evidence of what she was earning in her current position, which she obtained in December of 2014. As a result, the court reasoned that Overman was entitled to what she would have earned as the police chief, minus what she earned from her pension and subsequent positions. Likewise, the court determined that Overman was entitled to the difference the failure to hire had made to Overman’s pension benefits, which were provided to all government employees through MPERS, Louisiana’s version of Ohio’s OPERS. All in all, the court awarded Overman $272,148.00 on her wrongful failure to hire claim.
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, denied a promotion, and denied wages or not receiving equal pay. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (216) 291-4744, you will meet with an attorney from The Spitz 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 the top of this page and on 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 The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.