MCAD Awards Complainant More Than $1.5 Million in Gender Discrimination Case

In Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Janice Switzer v. Office Max, Inc. Docket Number 07-BEM-00737, the MCAD awarded the Complainant, Janice Switzer (“Ms. Switzer”), over $1.5 Million.

The MCAD found Ms. Switzer’s position with Office Max, Inc. was eliminated “to punish her for complaining about gender disparities and for not quietly accepting less remuneration than her male colleagues.”  Id. at P. 34.

The award is notable because it included over $650,000 in front pay and $300,000 in emotional distress damages.

Janice Switzer (“Ms. Switzer”) was employed by Office Max, Inc. (“Office Max”) as a District Sales Manager.  Ms. Switzer complained that Office Max created a culture that she described as an “old boy’s network.”  For example, Ms. Switzer testified that she was not included in male golf outings and lunches, was not sent to Chicago headquarters for meetings with high-level executives, and was not chosen to attend national sales meetings. 

Ms. Switzer also alleged that her pay was unequal to her male counterparts, despite the fact that she had more experience and superior qualifications.  Ms. Switzer complained to her superiors about these issues in 2006 and, later that year, Office Max instituted a restructuring of its sales organization and eliminated Ms. Switzer’s position.

Office Max argued that it terminated Ms. Switzer because it decided to eliminate one of three sales manager positions in her district.  It claimed that it chose which of the three positions to eliminate based on factors such as, “quota attainment and adherence to company values, in particular, ‘teamwork and trust.’”  Id. at P. 14.

The MCAD hearing officer, Eugenia M. Guastagerri, disagreed.  She found that Ms. Switzer “is an extremely intelligent and capable business woman who repeatedly sought fair remuneration and professional advancement and did not shrink from vocalizing her concerns to management.”  Id. at P. 31.

 She further held that Office Max’s “assessment of [Ms. Switzer’s] character promotes an unflattering stereotype of females who seek to advance their professional interests as overly aggressive and selfish, whereas male professionals who exhibit similar behavior are viewed as confident, hard-charging and successful…In the end, I am left to conclude that the real reason for Complainant’s termination was that she was a strong and persistent female who did not conform to the standards of behavior expected of a woman in the workplace.”  Id. at P. 32-33.

If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly in the workplace because of your gender, or for any other reason, call the Law Offices of Sherwood Guernsey today and ask for Ethan Klepetar: (413) 499-3520.  You may be entitled to damages, too.