- Two women have filed a lawsuit alleging that sex bias is present in HR policies and practices at UPS. The putative class action seeks $250 million in back pay, front pay, and other damages (Goins v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 3:21-cv-08722 (N.D. Calif. Nov. 9, 2021)).
- Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed their workplace’s culture amounted to an “old boys’ club.” Their site coordinator doled out hours and job assignments based on sex and gender stereotypes, they alleged, adding that broader promotion and pay decisions also were based on sex. The lawsuit alleges both this adverse and other, “benevolent” sex discrimination.
- Responding to the allegations, a UPS spokesperson said the company believes people should be respected and protected in the workplace. “We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment, we offer several ways for our employees to report and resolve issues with confidence, and we respond promptly when issues are brought to our attention. We will investigate these allegations and respond accordingly.”
The Goins plaintiffs said the alleged bias in HR at UPS “stems from gender inequalities in broader organizational structures,” including leadership and culture.
Such claims speak to the often-stated DEI position that diversity in leadership and in HR departments can result in improved inclusion and belonging throughout a company. HR drives compensation practices, reward practices, talent acquisition, employee retention and more — issues that have a direct effect on equity at work, one DEI pro recently told HR Dive.
Manager training also can reduce bias and discrimination at work, employment law attorneys say. Compliance training, in particular, can help employers avoid issues like the benevolent bias alleged in Goins. Such discrimination can include giving an employee with a disability a light-duty assignment, for example, or assuming an employee who is pregnant wouldn’t want to travel for work.
Adverse actions based on stereotypes “are sometimes well-intentioned and perceived by the employer as being in the employee’s best interest,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on employees with caregiving responsibilities. “For example, an employer might assume that a working mother would not want to relocate to another city, even if it would mean a promotion.” But adverse actions that are based on protected characteristics violate federal law, “even if the employer is not acting out of hostility,” according to the commission.