A Texas woman says that the law firm where she is a partner discriminated against women through a no-fraternization policy that prohibited men and women from working alone together and from socializing outside of the office. This resulted in professional disadvantages for the women at the firm, who were isolated.
These types of policies are not uncommon and are typically in place to discourage office romances, which are sometimes associated with harassment complaints.
The employee pointed out that if the concern was harassment, there are many better ways to avoid it, and that harassment based on other categories, such as race or national origin, would not be addressed by segregating employees.
Indeed, if the policy was designed to protect female workers, a better method would have been to simply not hire or continue to employee people who had a history of harassing coworkers and to provide better training to prevent harassment in the future.
Instead of serving a legitimate purpose, the policy isolated the give women working at the law firm who were unable to work closely with or socialize with the 33 male attorneys.
The exact language of the anti-fraternization policy is not available and is not in the text of the complaint, because the employee says she is concerned about potential violations of the company's confidentiality policy. She also alleges that after spending months try to resolve the issue with superiors at work, the confidentiality policy was pointed out to her in a way that seemed threatening.
It is important for Texas employees to know that it is illegal to retaliate against someone who makes a legitimate complaint about working conditions or a company policy.
Source: AOL Jobs, "Texas Employer Barred Men and Women From Being Alone Together, Suit Claims," Claire Gordon, April 9, 2013.
Information about gender discrimination in Texas workplaces can be found on our website.