BY DAVID MIKLAS
A South Florida company had a sales team consisting of 22 men and five women. The owner of the company was inspired by the #MeToo movement and wanted to make sure he was doing his part to “level the playing field.” He decided to run an ad specifically intended to hire more women into the sales department. The company ran a job listing on the website, stating it was “taking the radical approach of actively soliciting women salespeople.” The title above the listing announced that the company “Wants to Hire Women Sales Associates!”
Although the ad specifically targeted women applicants, a male applicant applied but was rejected via an email that read, “At this time we won’t be moving forward with your application.”
The male applicant filed a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The FCHR investigated the allegations and in June 2018 ruled partially in favor of the applicant, determining that the company fully considered his application regardless of his gender before it rejected him. However, the FCHR also concluded the company’s stated gender preference was “direct evidence of gender discrimination” under Florida law. The FCHR stated in its ruling that “reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful practice occurred” in the company’s explicitly soliciting female applicants.
In fact, the FCHR’s executive director wrote in her determination of reasonable cause that the company “provided the posting and acknowledged that ... it stated a gender preference because [the company] wanted to get more female employees …This is direct evidence of gender discrimination under section 760.10(6), Florida Statutes.”
The company’s main defense was that the male applicant was unqualified for the position because he had no prior sales experience and did not even live in Florida.
The applicant was seeking back pay and front pay from the date the position was filled by another individual, along with attorney fees.
This recent South Florida case reminds all Florida employers that there is a significant danger in running advertisements, including online postings, excluding a certain segment of the population.
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Employment lawyer based in Fort Pierce. His firm, Law Office of David Miklas, exclusively represents employers, both in the private and public sectors.